HoneyBeard seemed offended. "You said you couldn't climb."
[Did I just hallucinate that monster? They seem very chill.]
"I can't climb cliffs. I can climb trees. My ancestors did not live up cliffs, they lived in trees."
HoneyBeard didn't seem in a hurry to believe that. "Your ancestor's lived in trees?"
"Um, yes. I mean like a long way back when we still had hair all over."
"What on Mirth went wrong since then?"
A small bell finally went off in Nelda's head. [This world must be called Mirth. What the fuck? Even its name sounds like a deliberate satire of Earth not something that would really exist.]
"I do apologize if I startled the lady." This was a new voice. Countertenor if male, contralto if female, and somehow she knew whoever owned that voice would be able to sing. And they were all male.
All fear was banished. [It's a little odd for me to trust someone I haven't even seen yet, but… it's not like I can stay up in the tree forever.]
There is really no dignified way for an adult to get out of a tree. Have you ever watched a cat confront that problem? Claws are really good for going up, but pretty useless for going back down. Fingers are about the same. Nelda quickly decided the only option she has was to go down backwards. [Bass akwards, as they say. As per usual for me.]
This rapidly led to a situation where Nelda was hanging from the lowest branch and yet still dangling an alarming distance from the ground. A piney branch was slapping her in the face with each swing. The drawstring of her pants was also starting to feel a little less than secure.
"Perhaps I could assist?" said the smooth cultured voice.
"I would really rather you didn't," Nelda gasped. [What could he possibly grab me by that wouldn't be even more embarrassing than this?]
[Fuck it.] She let go and hit the ground with a resounding thump that shuddered up her legs, before falling backwards onto her ass and rolling onto her side.
"Yes," commented HoneyBeard helpfully. "Because you clearly had that situation completely under control."
The pain in her ankles gave ample motivation for uttering a number of creative—or banal but emphatic--expletives. But looking up, Nelda forgot them all.
[This, one assumes, is the gryphon.]
It was a creature with about the overall stature of a mountain lion, but with the head and forelegs of an eagle. Tawny-gold all over in color and wearing a red cape trimmed with fur, beneath which she could see the shape of what might be wings. Strikingly, the creature's piercing eyes framed by a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles than seemed to be held in place only by a clip over the top of his beak.
The gryphon sat back on his cat-like haunches, revealing a neatly embroidered waistcoat under this cape, partly covered by his feather ruff. "If there is any point at which I can offer assistance, please do let me know," he said, gently but warmly.
HoneyBeard huffed and sat down on the ground as well. "If you are waiting for reason to set in, we may be here for a while."
"I have no pressing appointments," the Gryphon replied. "And that was a rather impressive display of brachiation. You'll notice that your associate has a considerably wider degree of shoulder rotation than is available to a satyr."
"But I did fail to stick the landing," Nelda contributed, rubbing her right ankle. [I hope to hell I haven't broken it.] Her face flushed from acute embarrassment.
The gryphon did not seem to notice her lack of composure. "I should apologize for the nature of my approach," the gryphon said apologetically. "I do not always appreciate the instinctual responses other beings are wont to show when confronted to suddenlt with a personage of my size. One with an overall presentation that is indicative of a predator."
"No. I was acting… like an idiot."
HoneyBeard raised his hands in a 'thank you' gesture for the admission.
The gryphon smiled… somehow. The beak seemed to taper off into a yellow fleshy line at the edges which distinctly turned upwards in an adorable curve. "Any of use will make some… misjudgments," he said. "When we leave behind what is familiar to us. That is what makes those who venture forth in such a matter, so gloriously courageous, and a pleasure to be around."
The blush of embarrassment in Nelda's cheeks started to become warm in a different kind of place entirely. In her heart that is. "If we have leave to visit you," Nelda ventured. "Perhaps you would be so kind as to lead the way?"
"But of course." The gryphon stood and set of at a leisurely place. His furred tawny ass just protruding from the back of his plush cape. [Is it bestiality if the creature is sentience and had better diction than me? What the fuck is wrong with me?]
"Little help here, boys?"
The satyrs awkwardly supported her on each side as she limped after the glorious gryphon. "Isn't he glorious?" she asked rhetorically, too dazzled to come up with a synonym.
"What?" said BugleHead. "The big Cat-Bird? Doesn't make any sense, does it? A Cat-Bird. When it gets peckish does it want to pounce on itself?"
HoneyBeard snickered, which earned him a glare from Nelda. "If he has somewhere I can wash up I don't care if he's a Cat-Bird-Fish-Bear-Pig," she said.
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