It was deepening into dusk as they trotted further round the mountainside, tall trees closing in on them. Then, as the light failed, there was a faint glimmer of firelight and a murmur that hid the hint of laughter and revels within. Chiron, hands held out to his side, palms open and upwards, cautiously advanced. Suddenly they were surrounded by flitting figures darting half seen around them, drawing them towards the flames. A deep, booming voice, as rich as plum pudding called out to them.
“Tepic, my young friend, tis good to see you, and who have you brought to see us, is that Chiron the centaur?”
The manhorse looked round at the boy in astonishment, only to see the flash of an orange tail past his nose as the lad launched himself forward, landing lightly on his feet and dashed forward with an exclamation of glee! A clearing opened out in front of them, to one side was a roaring fire, satyrs and maenads dancing around to the wild beat of a drum, platters of exotic foods and confectionery vied for space with bulging wine skins on overburdened rude tables, and in the centre of the party was a huge man lounging against a massive fallen tree trunk, a young satyr holding a set of pipes leaning insolently against his shoulder.
Tepic raced up to the man, ending his dash with a series of cartwheels and tumbles to land crouched at the man’s feet, then looked up and grinned widely.
“Ello yer honour!”
“Ah, and have you brought your flute with you?” the chap who could only be Dionysus asked, then beckoned Chiron forward, “Come over, dear chap, you really should listen to this lad play, exquisite, it is!”
The centaur approached as Tepic brought forth his flute and stood, all the surrounding creatures gathering close for this anticipated treat. Raising it to his lips he looked deeply into the god’s eyes, and began to play the tune the Morlocks had loved so much, Si Un Jour. It’s notes twined with his heart, describing his heartache at the loss of his tail, the quest to find it again and the joy tinged with sadness at being given his new one, beautiful and wonderful yet still not real.
The last notes faded out onto the hushed audience, faint sobs being heard from one or to quarters, Tepic’s head dropped, shoulders hunched. Chiron stepped forward and started to speak.
“We came to..”
The god held up a hand to stay any further comment.
“The music has spoken all that needs to be said, my friend, now let me consider what is best.”
He looked around at his Court, at the wretched boy before him, then began to tap his foot, a slow rhythm to start. Reaching forward, he lifted the lad’s chin, looking him deep in the eyes, eyebrows starting to twitch in time, and began to hum a little tune.
Something started to move Tepic, a small jerk of a shoulder, a flutter of a hand, and he lifted his instrument, picking up the tune Dionysus had begun. The beat increased in tempo and volume, pan pipes and bells joined in, maenads and satyrs circling round, stepping in time. The music became wild and chaotic, with an ever increasing pitch, highlighting joy, pleasure and ecstasy! Even the staid centaur was caught up in the feverish dancing, prancing high on his hindquarters.
For hours the music flowed through the forest, skins of wine passing from hand to hand, until just before dawn a final, high, clear note of uttermost joy burst forth. The fire blacked out, and darkness rushed in as the note died, all the participants in the revels falling senseless to the ground.
It was mid morning when Tepic awoke, leaning against the warm belly of the prone centaur. His tail curled under his hand, soft, bushy and with a distinct life of it’s own! He leapt to his feet with a whoop and danced with joy, each move perfectly balanced by his tail, feeling the movement and flow. Across the clearing he tumbled and jumped, springing from fallen trees, somersaulting over the last embers of the fire, exploring the delight he now felt!
Chiron groggily roused himself, head pounding. He could vaguely remember snippets of the previous evening, discussing chaos theory with Dionysus, the need for ideas to have form for reality to cling to, singing some Latin sounding song – Que sera, sera, or some such nonsense. At some stage he remembered a blue box appearing, golden light streaming out and surrounding the boy, and an angry man coming out and screaming incoherently at every one about wrecking his machine before one of the satyrs bopped him on the head and pushed him back in the box. There was another man with wheels instead of feet, who talked of unfathomable things in a mechanical voice. Another song, truly barbaric in sound, something about the only direction being upwards, strange visions of leviathans and, for some reason, bowls of flowers falling to the ground had filled his mind. After that it had all sort of blurred, not something he was used to. And now that dratted boy was yelling his head off sending arrows of pain through Chiron’s ears!
He called the lad over, motioning the excited child to quieten down and tell him what all the fuss was about.
“i got me tail back, an it’s bushier, an i got a black tip to it, an it’s wonderful, an…”
Chiron shushed him quickly, holding his aching head in his hands, then had Tepic stand on a tree stump while he examined the tail. It was true, what had been metal and oil was now flesh and blood. Where the silver ring had been was now a silvery band of fur with no trace of join. He shook his head, this was beyond medicine, and engineering as he understood that arcane art, but who could fathom the capricious nature of the gods, though from the palpable happiness emanating from the boy, he could possibly understand what Dionysus had gained.
“i gotta go home, thanks fer yer help, Chiron Sir, i ain’t gonna forget yer, but think me City might need me!” the boy cried, and headed at a run into the trees. The centaur followed, but there was no sign of the lad….