"The man's new kin were not the sort he sought;
advice of kings became too hard to find.
The fair one's kind were on the side she fought;
the hair she chose had weighed upon her mind.
The land of Owen has traveled to its heart.
The snakes combined to make a cat of strife.
The green bough grew in shadow and apart,
And found in Delphi an unlikely wife.
When wood and wild beast were pushed aside,
'tween sword and cloud the battle lines were drawn.
The tide of war had turned upon a pride,
and whether bonds of flesh and past stay sworn.
The champion on unicorn is mounted.
Where rideth she, all trials shall be surmounted."
Nelda peered through her pounding headache at the smeared words on the paper that Phyllis was holding rather closely in front of her face. The results were really not worth the effort. She lay back in the cool grass.
[Fuck me. What's that meant to mean?]
[Is that a sonnet? Like the Shakespeare kind? I don't think the iambic whatch-a-ma-jigger is quite right. How does it go? Ba bum, ba bum, ba bum, ba bum, ba bum, ba bum….]
[The man's new… whatever. No idea. King? Do we know anything about kings?]
She plumbed her memory to see if it offered any clues that might unlock the meaning of the cryptic verse.
Her memory after the satyrs lost the game of Twister was imperviously blank.
[Shit. That hasn't happened since freshman year at good ol' Barker U. Bogo night at the Bongo Bar.]
It was not really a fond memory. After she did something obnoxious that was also lost to memory, her so-called friends had abandoned her [and the Girl Code], and she had woken up the next morning underneath the shrubs behind the swimming center covered in her own vomit, which was far from the worst thing that could have happened.
Nelda opened her eyes, winced, and closed them again. It wasn't just the bright morning light and resurgence of nausea, but also the grumpy face of dragon-Phyllis. When she sulked the teeth from her lower jaw jutted up like some kind of fugly Insta-famous pet with a minor skull deformity.
"What are you ssssmirking about?" Phyllis hiss-snapped.
"Don't you ever think that the continuum from comedy to tragedy," Nelda said. "It's not so much a straight line as a circle. And somewhere back there it the very extreme ends it joins seamlessly together." Nelda kept her eyes closed but made a circlet shape with the tips of her index fingers.
"What the hell are you going on about?" Phyllis said, but not with a lot of emphasis. She sounded a bit tired.
"I mean," Nelda said slowly. "Our situation is serious, but it is also a bit ridiculous." Without ever really knowing what a dragon sigh would sound like, Nelda knew that was what she was listening too.
"I suppose that might explain why Jennifer is up a tree."
Nelda sat up. She took a few deep breaths. "That sounds like a bad idea?" she said.
"I did express that opinion." Phyllis was sitting on the grass next to her. "I was over-ruled. Reg had told her that centaurs can't climb trees and she had to defend the honor of her people by proving otherwise."
"What was I doing during all this?"
"You considered it very important that BugleHead concede the point that while most yellow flowers are a similar shade of yellow, pink flowers are a very wide array of pinks. This involved giving him a primer on central tendency and variance and estimates thereof."
Nelda experimentally opened one eye. They were on the side of a hill overlooking Asbolus little one person mini-walled-village. "Oh dear," Nelda said. [There was a manticore out here last night. I hope everyone is okay.] "Where is SmithGuild?"
"He asked me to stay here with you while he attempted to locate the satyrs. They expressed a desire to go swimming somewhere around dawn."
"Swimming doesn't seem to suit satyrs much more than tree climbing would suit centaurs, From what I have seen," Nelda mused.
"Yes, any kind of equid that far off the ground," Phyllis mused. "I was estimating her weight and assuming Earth-level gravity, the force of impact relative to…"
"Okay, okay. Centaur fall out of tree equals bad, we don't need to do the maths. Let me just see if Nelda do standing up equals possible."
[I feel like shit. I really feel like shit. But I can't have Jen break her legs falling out of a tree. So I need to go help because that's what a hero does—or something.]
Nelda struggled to her feet. Dried heaved into the bushes. Straightened burped, and heroicly turned to Phyllis and asked: "So, which tree is it?"
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