While the satyrs were allowed to roam the encampment, Nelda was stuck with being the BellMare's companion. The old lady's mind was clearly fixed very firmly on both pleasing her Gryphon friend and acquiring the unicorn horn.
The BellMare asked, "So do you know the rite for returning the unicorn to life?"
"Not… as such. It seemed wise to secure the ritual components, as a first step."
Nelda had learned, when writing exam essays, that there was a fine line between bluffing a few extra points, and revealing that you really had no idea what you were talking about. [It worked for MicroBio 300, and sure hope its working now.]
HoneyBeard could be seen somewhat off in the distance, making lewd suggestions to a male centaur. [Or at least, any sign language performed the penis can probably be assumed to be lewd]. To be fair the centaur seemed to be giving HoneyBeard's idea serious consideration, so it probably wasn't going to cause them too much trouble.
The BellMare commented, "Sometimes may people call them saws."
"Centaurs, with the important bits in the middle taken out. S—aur." She laughed at her own joke.
Nelda had to think about that for a little while before she got it. And it seemed more like a thinly veiled insult than a joke. There was just something about how the BellMare looked at the satyrs, something… condescending. [God, I hope I'm not doing the same thing. A satyr's job is to be a good satyr, not match up to any bullshit assumptions I bring over for a completely different world.]
Nelda ate some more of the squishy fruit the centaurs had offered her. It tasted a little like artificial watermelon flavoring, but not at all like actual watermelon. She felt like it was probably her time to say something. It was hard to know as the BellMare seemed very comfortable with uncomfortable pauses.
"I suppose finding the rite will just have to be part of the quest," Nelda said. "Maybe the Gryphon can help with that?"
"I doubt it, you would do better to ask Gryphon Lucretia ScribeGuild. But perhaps Gryphon SmithGuild will see fit to make an introduction. Our Gryphon is more involved with… metal things."
"That seems like an excellent plan. Thank you BellMare. I'll ask this gryphon to ask the other gryphon about the… thing. I am so grateful for your wise counsel." Sometimes the only way to keep a crazy important people calm was to flatter them. But it helped if they were tone deaf to any kind of sarcasm, as rampant egotists often are.
The BellMare, encouraged, nodded sagely. "Perhaps in the meantime," she wheedled. "You could leave the little satyrs with us. They seem to be simple to keep amused."
HoneyBeard and the centaur were now comparing the sizes of their cocks. It seemed to be a close call as to which was bigger. A spirited argument broke out, drawing the attention of other nearby centaurs.
Nelda started to back-peddle. "I did promise that at the conclusion of the quest I would ensure they were returned safely to their village."
"Perhaps that is a service we could provide on your behalf? In the spirit of cooperation."
[I bet you would. And come back with wagonloads of flying leaf. Trying to steal my unicorn horn, bitch?]
[Wait. I don't even want the unicorn horn.]
A third centaur was now directly involved in the argument with HoneyBeard, and had brought over some kind of measuring tape.
Nelda started to gnaw experimentally on a fungus that she had been told was called TigerHeart. [Or at least I hope it is a metaphorically named truffle, not a dried tiger organ… I won't ask.]
Given that both satyrs and centaurs were chimera, that is they combined together different species, they must have a digestive tract that was at least part small ruminant or equid, respectively. This did rather introduce the possibility that something might be safe for them to eat, but dangerous—even poisonous—for a human.
[But a girl's gotta eat.] The TigerHeart tasted a little like cooked rhubarb. [Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, right?]
Nelda's stomach voted to take the risk.
Finally, Nelda replied. "Well. Satyr's gonna do what satyrs gonna do. You'd have to take that up with them."
Later that afternoon Nelda managed to get away to confer with the satyrs under the cover of a copse of low prickly trees.
HoneyBeard was aggrieved because he had lost the cock-measuring contest on the basis that the centaurs considered length more important than girth. HoneyBeard got increasingly upset when his travelling companions sided with the centaurs, and introduced a new topic of conversation more to his liking.
"Ooh," said HoneyBeard. "Nelda, I think your god is the god of lies. Because you are a lying liar." He crossed his arms and sat back, satisfied with this salvo.
"How can you say that?" said BugleHead.
"Don't be dense, she has lied right in front of you several times now."
BugleHead seemed offended on her behalf. "Nuh-uh, it's just, like, circumstances change. You know? And who, after they have time to think about it, doesn't want a treasure."
They both looked at Nelda, who kept a poker face. She tried to change the subject again. Not wanting to either please HoneyBeard or disillusion BugleHead. "These centaurs seem pretty keen about helping you guys get home. Maybe you should think about taking them up on it."
"Only so they can get the leaf," HoneyBeard added. "But without you, I don't think it will work."
"Hmmm," Nelda mused. "It might be me plus leaf equal fly, it might be me plus anyone with boobs equals fly. It might be something else entirely. We don't really have any way of knowing." She thought about that for a while and added: "And I don't really know why I should care."
"But they want to save the unicorn," BugleHead said. "Because the unicorn makes them special. They said their body is from the unicorn while our centaur tails are just from the whore-sis." He wrinkled his nose. "Which I don't really understand what that it, but it sounds a bit judgmental."
Nelda looked up through the branches of the crouched down scrubby trees. Their small leave shivers in the gentle breeze. Even in a whole different world, people were still people. Which was to say: mostly assholes. "They sure latched onto that quick," she said. "Especially given that when they woke up this morning they didn't even know that horses existed—if they even do over here."
Her stomach that had been grumbling about emptiness a short while before was now starting to protest about gas. Easing from one bum-cheek to the other she let out a rather remarkable whistling fart. Embarrassed she looked over to see HoneyBeard watching her with unusual intensity.
"I think we'll stick with you," HoneyBeard said.
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