Being woken by a BugleHead cannonball is not the world's most peaceful way to end a sleepover. The satyr crashed down between them, bringing with him a flurry of dried leaves and the smell of slightly rotten fruit.
BugleHead sat up, cross-legged, and started to emit a stream of happy words. "Hey, gryphon. Hey, Nelda. HoneyBeard gave me the unicorn horn. Would you like to see it? Look, you're wearing a unicorn again. Are you sure that's not a priestess thing? Because it's starting to look like a pattern isn't it? Literally, ha! Because it's a pattern on your clothing again."
Looking down Nelda remembered the sweatshirt Jen had given her. She gestured at the picture on the front. "Is that really how they actually look like here?"
"I don't know. They've been gone like a forever long time. I think there was only one, maybe, and it had hooves and horns so maybe. Are we going to bring it back?"
Unscrunching the prophecy-copy Nelda replied. "Maybe. Would you like to do that?"
"Oh, that would be a super quest. Don't you think so gryphon?"
SmithGuild watched them through blurry eyes. "I… what would that achieve?" he asked groggily.
"It would bring back the unicorn," BugleHead said chirpily. "Haven't you been listening?"
"Well, brother. There is a larger plan." Nelda indicated the prophecy picture.
BugleHead flopped back into the cushions. "Ugh. It's much better to just do one thing at a time, for one reason."
Nelda Looked at the picture. "If more people thought like that the world might actually be a better place." She turned the illustration towards SmithGuild. "But anyway. My plan--such as it is--is to make as many things as possible in this picture… not true. And if you look at the picture of me, I'm holding something. A long object with a spiral around it. The unicorn horn."
BugleHead was rolling around in the pillows like a happy dog. "Treasure!" he mumbled.
"So, if there really is only one, and we plant that back on the head of the real unicorn. The picture becomes a lie. Right?"
[And so long as I have an asexual boyfriend, it won't hurt any to get a little less 'horny'. ha.]
SmithGuild frowned. "I am not sure that it works like that."
"Are you sure that it doesn't?"
"Hmmm. I think… do you remember what Pytho said to you?"
BugleHead burrowed under a tapestry blanket. "She said a lot of things."
"She did," Nelda agreed. "But only one thing that told SmithGuild. Word-for-word, at least. She said I should not have a map because I need to meet the people of Mirth on their own terms."
"That suggests," SmithGuild added. "That she feels your intuition is somehow more powerful than if you learn things as facts. It's an interesting idea. But if you are a kind of demigod, as heroes often are, you may have powers that you don't really know about. Powers that work based on what you feel or think rather than what you know."
BugleHead sat bolt upright. "Like you heard 'flying leaf', and thought it was a leaf that made you fly and so it was."
SmithGuild pointed at BugleHead and nodded a reluctant agreement.
Nelda blinked. She sat very still and let the thought filter through her mind like water into dry ground. "Like, unconscious magic?" [I thought at the time, that the dragons were like Mirth moderators, even admins. Pytho seemed to be able to make a tunnel appear overnight. But on the other hand, it could have just been hidden behind a big rock. But…]
Nelda thought about when she was just a first-year student, and she wasn't doing so well on exams, especially multi-choice. And she went through an old test and looked at all the times when she changed her answer. More often than not her first choice had been corrected and overthinking was what caused the mistake.
"So, SmithGuild," she said. "You think I should follow my intuition. Is that what a hero would do? I mean, a hero's instincts would be good and true but a lifetime of experience suggests mine are a bit… wibbly wobbly."
SmithGuild smiled. "It seems as good a plan as any we have. The prophecy places you on one side of the matter and I am quite sure it is the side of right." He looked aside very briefly and added, "But we should also talk to a seer."
"Not a mermaid!" Nelda said.
"A harpy?" BugleHead asked, sounding strangely happy about the prospect.
"No," SmithGuild said. "There is one seer I know of that is not a mermaid. The centaur Asbolus."
"Ass-bolus?" BugleHead snickered. "That would be…"
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