Nelda stayed on the back edge of the white sand, sitting on a driftwood trunk caught in the seagrass. She could just imagine a mermaid breaching like a hunting orca and dragging her into the dark sea.
SmithGuild came to join her leaving Herby arguing with the satyrs about what can and cannot be thrown on a bonfire (and asking: what is a bonfire anyway. The growing flames were drawing in an increasing, jumbled, congregation of Jasper phoenixes.
There came a moment when the Jaspers also got the idea that they could throw things on the fire themselves and Herby had to take up the argument with them.
"You don't look too worried," Nelda commented to SmithGuild.
"It's closer to the sea than the house." -- A Jasper flitted down the beach, it's tail on fire – "That could be a problem, though." He trotted off in pursuit of the flaming bird.
Logically, the flying leaf here works the same way I could use it to avoid the mermaids until arriving at harpy island. But I would need SmithGuild to sort-of carry me there.
[That would be a real Barbarella moment.]
By her best estimate, it took some time for the hern to work. She had taken it near dusk and woke to float only just before dawn. But they had a whole day and night before needing to be on the island, and she was not inclined to spend too much of that bobbing around like a parade float.
SmithGuild returned, shaking his head. He lay down in the sand and rested his head on his folded claws. His ear tufts flicked as the satyrs were arguing loudly about whether to through a pile of seaweed onto the fire, which was now ringed with Jaspers, glowing even redder than usual. Herby had filled a couple of apple buckets with water and was standing by.
[Maybe it wasn't a ploy, and Herby just has some kind of phobia about fire?"
"So…." Nelda broke the companionable silence. "Do the Jasper phoenixes all have a Jasper stone?"
SmithGuild blinked. "They seem to. They can find red Jasper around the place. It doesn't seem to replicate with them when they are a twin. Why do you ask?"
"Just a thought. Might that be…" [Should I be telling SmithGuild the Lapises business? Would they tell him if they could talk, or would they rather he didn't know?] "It just struck me that lapis might be more rare. Around here, at least."
"I'm also wondering when my people might make the next attempt to pull me back. The attempts so far…" She sketched a line on the sand and marked the days. "Occurred on the second and fifth day. But the time back home seemed almost unchanged the first time. Bt the second time it was later that day and possibly a number of days later."
"Two and five is a sequence that suggests the next recurrence on day ten."
"Maybe, or may it just takes two days to prepare, and when I first vanished they were already prepared. That means it could happen again when we are at the Harpy island."
"We are going to parlay with the mermaids then?"
"It's more up to you than me, but I would say yes. End of the world is not really something to take lightly. I also think…" Nelda looked into the gryphon's round grey-gold eyes and lost her train of thought for a moment.
[If love makes fools of us all, what does it do to someone who is already a fool?]
"You think?" SmithGuild prompted.
"I do try." Nelda slipped won off the log to sit next to SmithGuild. "I think I need to go back alone and I need to stay there. If, as you say, the prophecies are inclined to come true—that seemed the best way to prevent a cataclysm. In the meantime, it would be wise to try to learn more about it. If at all possible to see it or a faithful copy of it."
"I… you don't know that leaving would solve the matter. It might even cause the predicted outcome."
"We have to apply logic to the situation. It shows two humans, so the less humans you have knocking around the place, the less likely this sequence of events is to occur." [Oh god, am I going to cry?]
Nelda looked for something to distract her mind before she started ugly crying in front of everyone. Just a few days of galavanting with mythical beats who mostly don't hate me has shown how completely empty 'real' life had become. A job, a condo, a ficus plant—[and I think I was killing the ficus plant, most of its leaves had fallen off. Which does suggest I shouldn't be left in charge of the fate of an entire world.]
BugleHead jogged past with a teetering Jasper perched on one horn and a small cask in his arms. [Where did he get that from?]
SmithGuild winced, still a bit sensitive about the nudity issue.
"If that happens," Nelda said. "I need to ask you the favor of helping the satyrs get back home, assuming that's still what they want to do. And, for what it's worth, you may find it easier to get used to them as they are than to get them to change." An old ethology lesson floated to the surface of her mind. "It's easier to get used to thing that may be annoying when you realize they are harmless."
BugleHead trip and the opened cask fell and splashed into the fire. It immediately caught fire in a ripple flashing back to the cask. "Oh no, the booze!"
HoneyBeard had to hold him back from trying to pat out the flaming liquid with his hands.
"Mostly harmless," Nelda amended. "And they mean well."
"They mean well in relation to you," SmithGuild said. "I am not entirely sure what the big one would do if you suddenly vanished."
"HoneyBeard is good people. I'll explain it to him. And if I do end up going back, stay on the alert for another human — the prophecy shows two of us. And we can be more dangerous than we seem. The satyrs are solid allies; you could do worse than encouraging them to stay around."
BugleHead, now adorned with a Jaspe on each horn, turned to argue with HoneyBeard, his horse-like tail caught fire. Always the quick thinking Honeybeard grappled him promptLY to the sea and threw him into the water. There arose a cacophonous and outraged screech from one satyr and two phoenixes.
"You have to admit," Nelda said. "They keep things interesting."
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