A few of the satyrs continued a spirited discussion about her, but none of them seemed very interested actually in speaking to her. Or even looking at her.
HoneyBeard picked up his bushel of branches and seemed about to take his leave. The light of dusk was starting to smolder down behind the trees.
Nelda leaped up and stumbled after HoneyBeard. "But wait!" she called. "Can I stay here?"
He turned to her grumpily. "I don't see anyone stopping you."
Nelda fumbled for words. "But how will I… live?"
"The air is warm, the ground is soft. There is fruit in the trees and fish in the river. If you don't know how to live, that's not down to me."
Nelda had to run to keep up with the satyr, who moved his large frame nimbly on dainty hooves. She tripped in the darkness, staggered, twirled and fell, tumbling down the bank into the tepid river, She could feel thick mud [or at least I hope it's mud] squishing between her fingers and smeared down the side of her face.
HoneyBeard peered over the edge of the bank at her, silhouetted against the fading sky.
BugleHead came over to join him. "Why is she bathing with her clothes on?" he asked.
"I am beginning to suspect, brother, that the little priestess has no idea how to live."
"It's dark." Nelda struggled to stand and rinse her hands and face in the water.
"So you don't have moon-sight, then?" BugleHead asked.
"I don't have moon-sight, I guess. Whatever that is, And I don't know which fruit can be eaten, and I don't know how to fish. What did you expect? I don't even know how to put offerings on an altar correctly."
Nelda felt a sudden surge of emotion and at that moment it could have gone one of two ways: dissolving into pathetic tears or venting pointless anger with the bizarre turn her life had suddenly taken.
[I am not going to be a damsel-in-fucking-distress, or at least not the damsel part]. "Look you two," Nelda said. "Old stick-thumper may have declared I am not your problem, but maybe he's not the one who gets to decide that. My god put me here, and the one thing I am really good at is being a problem. So it might be a little bit easier if you help me figure out someplace I can go to try and maybe find a way back home. And I'll leave you to… whatever it is you do here other than drink and fuck."
"Why would anyone want to do anything else?" BugleHead remarked.
"Well, brother. You can't expect a chaste skinny freak to understand the real purpose of life And we do at least one other thing, sleep. Which I am going to do now."
[Why does he assume I am chaste?]
BugleHead [I should really find out his real name] replied with good humor: "Hmm. But she may have a point. Maybe the harpies could help her?"
"And maybe if we just ignore her until tomorrow, the dragons will eat her." HoneyBeard shuffled away.
Nelda scrambled back up the bank. BugleHead waited and even took her hand to pull her up the last few feet.
"So… dragons?" Nelda asked.
"I've never seen a dragon."
"That's a very good policy, sister. I suggest you continue with it."
The satyrs settled down to sleep as it got dark. Most of them made no more than a token effort to scrape together some leaves and branches to rest on. A few used rudimentary hammocks or rested together in companionable tangled heaps.
The closest thing Nelda had to a plan was to stick near her two tenuous acquaintances. She could see both of them leaning against the roots of a large tree. She settled down nearby with her back against a rock nearby.
BugleHead at least seemed not to dislike her. His last comment suggested that 'brother' or 'sister' was a term of at least mild affection. [If it is literal, that's some serious incest going on over there.] Nelda covered her eyes and tried to continue her train of thought.
The two satyrs probably knew how to find food, and how to avoid being food for something else--a possibility the mention of dragons presented. They weren't actively trying to get rid of her, so that would have to do. With a short term strategy in place, she had a moment to consider just what might have happened to her.
[Option 1: I am suffering some kind of hallucination and actually unconscious or acting nonsensically in the real world.]
[Option 2: I have actually been transported by the machine to a different world... where mythical creatures speak colloquial English.]
[Option 3: This option must collectively include all the other possibilities that I lack the knowledge or imagination to come up with.]
Objectively speaking, option two did not seem very likely. Nevertheless, she had no way to do anything but go along with the information that all her senses were providing her. She drew her knees up to her chest and moved to the next problem. If she was, in fact, now in some improbable alternative world, what should she do?
[Plan A: Stay near where I appeared because that's what every hiker is taught to do when they get lost. Logically a way back--either accidental or planned--is most likely to appear in the same place that I originally entered.]
[Plan B: Forget about getting back home and just start a new life here.]
[Plan C: Do what I just said to the satyrs: go out and see if anyone in this world might know how to get back to my own world.]
Nelda knew that what she wanted to do, was not really the logical choice. Her overwhelmed mind began to fog over with exhaustion. [I'll just close my eyes for a little while.]
Nelda started awake in a panic. She was being stuck with sharp points all up and down her body. She flailed in instinctive protest and self-defense. She registered that she was facing downwards with scratchy tree branched all around her… and the ground far below.
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