Artesius frowned as he listened to Dwyn’s report. Whether his father had bought the centaurs as slaves or intending to release them remained to be seen. His reaction to finding them gone would indicate which one, the centaur was certain.

“We have to… I shouldn’t show you but… I haven’t any choice, really. We need to know who this Anderson person is – beyond that he keeps a menagerie and traffics in sentient beings.”

“Where are we heading?” Gwilym asked softly as, mounted on horses, he and Dwyn followed Artesius. It seemed they were heading away from what the bodyguard had always considered civilized territory.

“We’re going to… well, it’s a centaur city of a sorts,” Artesius replied. “I live there. The herd that was… that Hersperios and I belong to, splits it’s time between where they were… attacked and the city.”

“Your herd is your family, right?” Dwyn said softly.

“Yes,” Artesius replied. “My father and his wives; all their children and children’s children; cousins and aunts and uncles. Some are married into the family. My older brother has three wives – obviously they weren’t related until after he wed them.”

“You practice polygamy?” the boy asked, shock coloring his tone.

Artesius shrugged. “It’s a hold-over from our equine ancestors. A herd of horses is little more than the harem and children of a stallion. The same pretty much holds true for centaurs. The only difference being that we don’t take as much exception with other adult males. Well, we don’t sleep with anything in heat, whatever the relation, either; but that’s prevalent in the animal world.”

“Sentient beings form taboos, not simple animals,” Gwilym said. “You didn’t just lose friends and neighbors when the slavers attacked then.”

“No,” Artesius said softly. “I don’t know him very well, but Hesperios is a cousin. We are family. The children and women you released from your father’s stables are… nieces, nephews, aunts, sisters and cousins too.”

“We’ll find the others too,” Dwyn promised again. Artesius nodded, hope growing within him.

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