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I STARED DOWN at it. About the size of a small side plate and around the same thickness, the disk map had a dark wood back and a polished black stone front, like obsidian. As the four of us stared at it, a picture began to develop. The image showed an aerial view of the markets and surrounding forest for several kilometers and a variety of colored dots in the market area.

'YOU'RE THE RED dot, Cat,' Alek explained, looking over their heads. 'Who ever holds the disk will always appear on it as the red dot.'

'What are the other colors then?' asked Loi.

'Humans appear as brown dots, gifted creatures show gold, woodland creatures show green, the blue dots are water creatures and so on. Any black dots means the disk map hasn't come across them before.'

'But it's easy enough to train,' the stall owner butted in, anxious to prove its qualities. 'When you get close to whatever is causing the black dot you show the disk it by turning the polished face to the creature. It will then categorize it and remember it in the future.'

They nodded in acknowledgment and peered at it again. A mix of colored dots showed and they had fun looking at the map, then back up to the actual creature.

'Wow!'

Sian looked at where Cat looked and gasped softly. A group of centaurs moved past the stalls on the other side of the market. They looked just like she would have expected. Their ears were pointy and twitched just like a horse, but sat positioned where a human's ear would be and in proportion. The young centaurs (foals?) that ducked around the adults were adorable.

WE MOVED ON exchanging impressed looks.

'So graceful,' murmured Kassie.

'And natural looking,' Loi shook her head. 'Very bizarre really.'

'Only for us,' said Sian, her eyes still fixed on them.

I continued to watch them and admired the unique clothing the females had on. Most wore fitted vests or tunic style tops but one had what looked like scarves, twisted and tied. When a very young centaur headed toward her it became apparent why. The female knelt to the ground in a fluid move and untied a knot at her shoulder, exposing her breast so the youngster could feed. We hastily looked away and instead glanced at a stall we stood near. The delighted stall owner chatted away to Alek, clearly thrilled at having the Prince there. 'My goodness, that Rayna is an isanith. You know she has a new male she's interested in? Yes, she only recently moved in with him.'

ALEK SHOOK HIS head. That figured, he thought, I'm glad I called it off with her. He conversed politely with the stall owner for a few moments before they moved on. Cat had listened to the conversation and frowned again; he gave her hand a squeeze and arched an eyebrow when she glanced up.

'Hmm?'

'What's an isanith?'

Alek chuckled and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, steering her past Rayna's stall and toward some jewelry stalls.

ALEK HERDED ME toward a jewelry stall while he explained. 'An isanith is a type of faerie. There are hundreds of different types of faerie, but the isanith is a pretty basic version. It hunts insects and will even kill other faerie if they're small enough and not quick to get away. They have a nasty bite and a sting.'

'Eww. They sound like wasps, are they considered a pest?'

'Depends on where they are,' he smiled at me. 'They can be very useful to farmers if they've had an infestation of wetans or deni. But if they found a hive near their house then they'd get rid of it.'

The Arrival, Book one of the Birthright TrilogyRead this story for FREE!