Aquamarine water flowed over the pure white stone, spilling out of the crystalline horn in the stone maiden’s hands. The water bubbled and flowed in the pool, then spilled over into another basin. The fountain stood in the centre of a square, directly in front of a tall quartz building with huge wooden doors and Corinthian columns. A steady flood of citizens flowed in and out of the quartz building and the constant clamor of voices could be heard anywhere in the square.
Tarus watched the fountain, as he often did during afternoons. The sun, just barely to the right of the top of the sky, cast rays of light down into the water. The reflected light added a pale sheen to the water, as if it were glowing as it flowed from one basin to the next. The placid water calmed Tarus, as it always did after a morning of hard work.
Tarus was young, at least as centaurs counted. A mane of black hair tumbled over his shoulders in tangled curls, as dark as midnight. Round green eyes glowed brightly from underneath thick black brows and heavy lashes. His broad shoulders and chest were bare, in the centaurs’ traditional style, and tanned from long days spent in the sun without protection. The lower half of his body was the four muscular legs of a chestnut horse. In one hand he held an open book, and in the other was a large quill pen. He was rarely seen without his journal.
“Tarus,” someone said behind him. His younger sister Liya stood behind him, braiding a chain of flowers. Her blonde curls were cut short at her chin and her blue eyes sparkled. A loose white shirt covered her human body, flaring at the shoulders and draping over her arms. “There’s a stranger at the shop,” she whined, pouting.
He closed his book. The sun was no longer at that perfect angle to shine on the water. Liya was learning to run the shop from their mother, but she was always timid around strangers, especially when they weren’t centaurs. “Liya, I’m sure it’s nothing,” Tarus assured her. “You know that travellers come through all the time. It’s probably just some self-proclaimed adventurer buying supplies. It happens all the time, Liya.”
“No,” Liya whimpered. “It’s a real stranger. And he looks really suspicious.”
Tarus sighed as Liya grabbed his wrist and pulled him across the square. The shop stood on the far side of town, a small white building with no door and wooden crates stacked up on all sides of it. Behind the counter stood a centaur that looked strikingly like Liya, who seemed to be in a heated argument with a man leaning casually against one of the poles supporting the ceiling. His blonde hair fell to about his chin, and he wore a high-collared black tunic and tall black boots. When he looked up, his eyes met Tarus’s, bright blue and burning with anger. It seemed that without his extreme expression of rage, the man would be quite handsome.