Vector Genius Presents – The Swan – July 201
After the war, Vacus returned to his home in the meadows beneath the great mountains where the blue river continuously flowed and had been flowing since time began. When he came to the blue river, he cupped his hand in the water and drank the most refreshing thing he had tasted in years. As the water rushed down his throat, it washed away all his thoughts of battle and seemed to bring back those who had fallen.
The meadow was covered in green shadows spread by thick, heaving trees that grew sparsely around it. The trees were so fresh that the bark peeled off with only a touch and the grass so thick that you could back track your exact steps for miles. Squirrels watched bravely from their limbs as Vacus trotted through the shadows of the meadow with his head held high and his spear, dull and cracked, hanging in his hand. Even with his imposing presence, the larks continued singing their melodious songs and the river lapped calmly against the shore again and again. The sun followed Vacus with a bathing beam of yellow light, kissing his rough body lightly. His worn hooves sunk into the grass to the point where he felt he was walking on air. All memory of him pounding through sloppy mud, lightning splitting the sky behind him, arrows sinking into the ground, with his friends tumbling over into wells of pitch black death, faded from his mind by the calm of the meadow that overtook him easier than an enemy ever could.
His home was just how he remembered it from before the war. Strong limbs made a canopy over two trees that not even rain water could get through. Moss had entirely covered both trees causing them to look like funnels of grass springing upward. Racing down one of the trees was a wrinkly squirrel that could fit in the palm of a hand. The squirrel stopped and examined Vacus before screeching, “Master Vacus! Is it…is it truly you?”
Vacus’ countenance grew from cheerful to over-joyed as a smile curled onto his lips. His heart leapt at seeing this wrinkly, old squirrel. “Smallpaw,” said Vacus affectionately, “My oldest friend. Goodness, look how you’ve aged.”
“I’m the oldest squirrel in the forest,” Smallpaw said proudly, “And all the other squirrels come to me for my wise advice.” Smallpaw gave Vacus a miniature size wink.
“Things certainly have changed then,” laughed Vacus.
“But, why have you returned, Vacus? Is the war over already?”
“It is over, and I’ve returned to my old home to finally start a family. I’ve put that off for far too long.”
When he heard this, Smallpaw’s eyes grew sad and wide so that Vacus could see himself in them. Smallpaw crept closer to his old friend and stood on his hind legs atop the canopy.
“I fear the great warrior has arrived too late. There are no centaurs left in this meadow or in the entire world, aside from you.”
“What has happened to them,” Vacus asked in horror.
“Some defeated by disease, others were taken by hunters. The centaurs were a proud race, no one, not me or any creature believed they could become extinct,” Smallpaw recoiled as he said this as if the very thought of these words coming from his lips disgusted him.
“Then I am the last of my kind” muttered Vacus. He didn’t have the strength to stomp his hooves in mourning. He merely collapsed onto the ground and removed his silver helmet.
“Wait!” cried the squirrel, “There might still be hope! I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. Deep in the woods, if you follow the blue river, is a creature. If anyone can help you, it will be her.”
Vacus had been following the river for miles. It had become so familiar to him that he knew the exact rhythm of the water as it washed to shore. He had left his spear and helmet at his home. There was no need for them anymore.
Suddenly a light as bright as a star appeared in the woods near him. It flickered behind trees as if to taunt him and then reappeared more full and bright than ever. Vacus glanced away from the blinding light and as he did a voice whispered directly to him, “Why do you seek me?”
Vacus stammered, but soon found his voice and said firmly, “I wish to have a family. A wife. Children.”
The light immediately vanished. Vacus searched the forest for any movement. There was none except the frittering of larks in the branches. Then, from behind a massive willow, stepped a centaur draped in white hair with a white coat like that of a lamb’s. “So this is what you desire?” she asked, “A female.”
“Would you take me?”
“You aren’t real,” Vacus replied.
“No,” she sighed, “I fear not.” She lifted her arms to the trees and a pale dove fluttered into her palms with its head bobbing up and down watching Vacus with tiny, black eyes.
The white centaur bowed to the ground and placed the dove in the grass before her. As she began to back slowly away, the dove grew with every step. Its wings stretch out over the grass and on their tips sprout hooves and its domed head runs wild with thick strands of hair. The white centaur had nearly disappeared into the forest as Vacus stood still as the moon, struck by the beauty of the centaur, the real centaur, that stood before him. Her sleek black coat matched Vacus’ and her hair fell below her shoulders. She trotted towards Vacus and rested her head on his shoulder and he held onto her with powerful, loving arms.
Smallpaw scurried around Vacus’ home patching up small holes here and there, repairing loose rope clinging to moss covered trees. “This will please Vacus,” Smallpaw muttered to himself, “Poor fellow. Back from war and not a loved one in sight, except me I suppose.”
Hoove’s stomping through the grass drew the attention of Smallpaws sensitive ears. He glanced up from his work. The hoove’s continued to come. “Too many to just be Vacus,” he said to himself while flying up the tree, looking towards the blue river. In the distance, on the edge of the river, Smallpaw made out the silhouettes of two hooved figures, the last of their kind, clomping their way towards him, laughing jovially.