Upgrade to a better browser, please.

Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books

Centaur Aisle

Added By: Administrator
Last Updated: Administrator

Centaur Aisle

Purchase this book through Purchase this book from Purchase this book from
Author: Piers Anthony
Publisher: Del Rey, 1982
Series: Xanth Series: Book 4
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Comic Fantasy
Avg Member Rating:
(83 reads / 21 ratings)


Dor agreed to act as King of Xanth so long as Trent was gone for a week. But the weeks passed and Trent did not return. Dor knew he had to rescue his king but with no magic powers, how could it be done...?


Chapter 1. Spelling Bee

Dor was trying to write an essay, because the King had decreed that any future monarchs of Xanth should be literate. It was an awful chore. He knew how to read, but his imagination tended to go blank when challenged to produce an essay, and he had never mastered conventional spelling.

"The Land of Xanth," he muttered with deep disgust.

"What?" the table asked.

"The title of my awful old essay," Dor explained dispiritedly. "My tutor Cherie, on whom be a muted anonymous curse, assigned me a one-hundred-word essay telling all about Xanth. I don't think it's possible. There isn't that much to tell. After twenty-five words I'll probably have to start repeating. How can I ever stretch it to a whole hundred? I'm not even sure there are that many words in the language."

"Who wants to know about Xanth?" the table asked. "I'm bored already."

"I know you're a board. I guess Cherie, may a hundred curse-burrs tangle in her tail, wants to know."

"She must be pretty dumb."

Dor considered. "No, she's infernally smart. All centaurs are. That's why they're the historians and poets and tutors of Xanth. May all their high-IQ feet founder."

"How come they don't rule Xanth, then?"

"Well, most of them don't do magic, and only a Magician can rule Xanth. Brains have nothing to do with it--and neither do essays." Dor scowled at his blank paper.

"Only a Magician can rule any land," the table said smugly. "But what about you? You're a Magician, aren't you? Why aren't you King?"

"Well, I will be King, some day," Dor said defensively, aware that he was talking with the table only to postpone a little longer the inevitable struggle with the essay. "When King Trent, uh, steps down. That's why I have to be educated, he says." He wished all kinds of maledictions on Cherie Centaur, but never on King Trent.

He resumed his morose stare at the paper, where he had now printed THU LANNED UV ZANTH. Somehow it didn't look right, though he was sure he had put the TH's in the right places.

Something tittered. Dor glanced up and discovered that the hanging picture of Queen Iris was smirking. That was one problem about working in Castle Roogna he was always under the baleful eye of the Queen, whose principal business was snooping. With special effort, Dor refrained from sticking out his tongue at the picture.

Seeing herself observed, the Queen spoke, the mouth of the image moving. Her talent was illusion, and she could make the illusion of sound when she wanted to. "You may be a Magician, but you aren't a scholar. Obviously spelling is not your forte."

"Never claimed it was," Dor retorted. He did not know what the word "forte" meant--perhaps it was a kind of small castle--but whatever it meant, spelling was not there. He did not much like the Queen, and the feeling was mutual, but both of them were constrained by order of the King to be reasonably polite to one another. "Surely a woman of your extraordinary talents has more interesting things to do than peek at my stupid essay," he said. Then, grudgingly, he added: "Your Majesty."

"Indeed I do," the picture agreed, its background clouding. She had of course noted the pause before he gave her title; It was not technically an insult, but the message was clear enough. The cloud in the picture had become a veritable thunderstorm, with jags of lightning shooting out like sparks. She would get back at him somehow. "But you would never get your homework done if not supervised."

Dor grimaced into the surface of the table. She was right on target there!

Then he saw that ink had smeared all across his essay-paper, ruining it. With an angry grunt he picked it up--and the ink slid off, pooled on the surface of the table, bunched together, sprouted legs, and scurried away. It leaped off the table like a gross bug and puffed into momentary vapor. It had been an illusion. The Queen had gotten back at him already. She could be extraordinarily clever in ugly little ways. Dor could not admit being angry about being fooled--and that made him angrier than ever.

"I don't see why anyone has to be male to rule Xanth," the picture said. That was of course a chronic sore point with the Queen. She was a Sorceress fully as talented as any Magician, but by Xanth law/custom no woman could be King.

"I live in the Land of Xanth," Dor said slowly, voicing his essay as he wrote, ignoring the Queen with what he hoped was insulting politeness. "Which is distinct from Mundania in that there is magic in Xanth and none in Mundania." It was amazing how creative he became when there was a negative aspect to it. He had twenty-three words already!

Dor cracked an eyelid, sneaking a peek at the picture. It had reverted to neutral. Good; the Queen had tuned out. If she couldn't bug him with crawling illusions, she wasn't interested.

But now his inspiration dehydrated. He had an impossible one hundred whole words to do, six times his present total. Maybe five times; he was not particularly apt at higher mathematics either. Four more words, if he counted the title. A significant fraction of the way through, but only a fraction. What a dreary chore!

Irene wandered in. She was King Trent and Queen Iris's daughter, the palace brat, often a nuisance--but sometimes not. It griped Dor to admit it, but Irene was an extremely pretty girl, getting more so, and that exerted an increasing leverage upon him. It made fighting with her awkward. "Hi, Dor," she said, bouncing experimentally. "What are you doing?"

Dor, distracted momentarily by the bounce, lost track of the sharp response he had planned. "Oh, come on," he grumped. "You know your mother got tired of snooping on me, so she assigned you to do it instead."

Irene did not deny it. "Well, somebody has to snoop on you, dummy. I'd rather be out playing with Zilch."

Zilch was a young sea cow that had been conjured for her fifteenth birthday. Irene had set her up in the moat and used her magic to promote the growth of sturdy wallflowers to wall off a section of water, protecting Zilch from the moat-monsters while she grazed. Dor regarded Zilch as a great blubbery slob of an animal, but anything that distracted Irene was to some extent worthwhile. She took after her mother in certain annoying ways.

"Go ahead and play with the cow," Dor suggested disparagingly. "I won't tell."

"No, a Princess has to do her duty." Irene never spoke of duty unless it was something she wanted to do anyway. She picked up his essay-paper.

"Hey, give that back!" Dor protested, reaching for it.

"You heard him, snit!" the paper agreed. "Give me back!"

That only made Irene ornery. She backed away, hanging on to the paper, her eyes scanning the writing. Her bosom heaved with barely suppressed laughter. "Oh, say, this is something! I didn't think anybody could misspell 'Mundania' that badly!"

Dor leaped for her, his face hot, but she danced back again, putting the paper behind her. This was her notion of entertainment--teasing him, making him react one way or another. He tried to reach around her--and found himself embracing her, unintentionally.

Irene had always been a cute girl and socially precocious. In recent years nature had rushed to endow her generously, and this was quite evident at close range. Now she was a green-eyed, green-tint-haired--occurring naturally; she did not color her hair--buxom beauty. What was worse, she knew it, and constantly sought new ways to use it to her advantage. Today she was dressed in a green blouse and skirt that accentuated her figure and wore green slippers that enhanced her fine legs and feet. In short, she had prepared well for this encounter and had no intention of letting him write his essay in peace.

She took a deep breath, inflating herself against him. "I'll scream," she breathed in his ear, taunting him.

But Dor knew how to handle her. "I'll tickle," he breathed back.

"That's not fair!" For she could not scream realistically while giggling, and she was hyperticklish, perhaps because she thought it was fashionable for young ladies to be so. She had heard somewhere that ticklishness made girls more appealing.

Irene's hand moved swiftly, trying to tuck the paper into her bosom, where she knew he wouldn't dare go for it. But Dor had encountered this ploy before, too, and he caught her wrist en route. He finally got his fingers on the essay-paper, for he was stronger than she, and she also deemed it unladylike to fight too hard. Image was almost as important to her as mischief. She let the paper go, but tried yet another ploy. She put her arms around him. "I'll kiss."
But he was ready even for that. Her kisses could change to bites without notice, depending on her mercurial mood. She was not to be trusted, though in truth the close struggle had whetted his appetite for some such diversion. She was scoring on him better than she knew. "Your mother's watching."

Irene turned him loose instantly. She was a constant tease; but in her mother's presence she always behaved angelically. Dor wasn't sure why this was so, but suspected that the Queen's desire to see Irene become Queen after her had something to do with it. Irene didn't want to oblige her mother any more than she wanted to oblige anyone else, and expressing overt interest in Dor would constitute a compromising attitude. The Queen resented Dor because he was a full Magician while her daughter was not, but she was not about to let him make anyone else's daughter Queen. Irene, ironically, did want to be Queen, but also wanted to spite her mother, so she always tried to make it seem that Dor was chasing her while she resisted. The various facets of this cynical game became complex on occasion.

Copyright © 1982 by Piers Anthony


There are currently no reviews for this novel. Be the first to submit one! You must be logged in to submit a review in the BookTrackr section above.


No alternate cover images currently exist for this novel.