ONE The caw of a crow warned me first. Then it was their smell--so rank it made my eyes water. I had never been so close to centaurs before, though of course I had seen them. There were many in my native Arcadia--wild, filthy creatures, notorious for their lack of restraint, and far more dangerous than satyrs. When they drank--as they often did, to excess--they would rape and beat whatever women they could find, which was why women never ventured into the forests alone. I am not alone, I reminded myself, I am with the Hunt, in Calydon. Yet the centaurs were at hand, and the other hunters were too far off to be of help, should I cry out. I would not; I would rather die. They came at a gallop, legs churning, chests heaving. I could run as swiftly as they. Indeed, I could outrun most creatures, human or otherwise. But there were two of them, and they were lust-maddened. I drew my bow. On they came, one with a torn ear, the other with a bulbous, red-veined nose. They were large and coarse and frightening, with none of the capering insolence that made their goat brothers almost endearing. Both had rough piebald coats, long, matted tails, and hooves as big as mallets. Their stink was fearsome. I shot the one with the red nose first. He reared. I hit him again, and he fell, snorting blood. I loosed two arrows, then three, at the other. He was so close when he toppled that I could feel his heat. He cursed me, groaning and choking. I backed away. They were huge creatures, and their great hooves kicked out as they died. "Safe crossing," I whispered. Then I heard a soft whistle that rose and fell like a question--Meleager, looking for me. I signaled back and he emerged through the trees. As I moved toward him, I saw the concern in his dark eyes fade, and he smiled broadly. He is relieved, I thought, knowing it was more than relief that lit up his face. We had met only days before, when the Hunt assembled at his father's palace, and since then Meleager had paid me many small courtesies--inquiring after my comfort whenever we chanced to meet, asking my opinion of his weaponry, introducing me to his beloved hounds. I required no more than any of the men, yet he sought me out time after time. I was flattered by his interest, for I liked him. He was straightforward and guileless, a man who preferred his hounds to his father's courtiers. He was a decent hunter, too--very good with the javelin, and passable with a bow. The dark stories about his fate--some said he carried a birth curse--made me feel a kind of kinship with him. Nevertheless, I had no desire for romantic entanglements. Like the men, I was here for glory. Moreover, I had taken a vow of chastity in honor of Artemis, and I intended to keep it. Seeing the yearning in Meleager's eyes, I resolved to tell him of my vow as soon as I could. I raised a finger in warning. I had lost the boar's scent, but he was cunning, and might be nearby. The sight of the slain centaurs stopped Meleager, but when he looked at me inquiringly I shook my head; explanations would have to come later. I started back up the hillside and he followed. Before long we could hear the others thrashing through the trees. Then all twenty-seven members of the Calydonian Boar Hunt came marching downhill in crescent formation, armed to the eyebrows. No living thing in the forest could miss hearing them, or seeing them, either. They moved without stealth, as if they were storming the walls of some hapless enemy city. I was certain that the boar would attack soon, and now, as the great hunt party advanced, I knew I had missed the chance to flush him out myself. I might have done it, I thought, if not for those stinking centaurs. They had likely cost me the head and pelt, and now the prizes of the hunt would go to one of the men. More than half of them were Argonauts--the intrepSpinner, Stephanie is the author of 'Quiver', published 2002 under ISBN 9780375814891 and ISBN 0375814892.