Nelda spent most of the day trying to gather some information about the world she was now in. The problem being that the world she was currently in was a dark, smoky cave full of creatures who didn't worry too much about the world beyond the tips of their 'horns'.
[With the exception of dragons, but if that's what it takes to get their attention....]
Very few of them had gone more than a day or two's travel from the river valley. They could describe a range of animals: goats, deer, wild horses, foxes, mud jumpers [?] gripe bears [??], and vampire tigers [!!!]. But their notions of other sentient races seemed a blend of fact and fancy. Some of them said they had actually spoken to mermaids or harpies. But stories of gryphons, centaurs, and manticores all seemed to be second-hand. Mentions of sphinxes, sea serpents, and ophinicuses were third hand and generations old. And in terms of were all these creatures lived, she got nothing more than 'somewhere far away'.
Nelda was struck with an impulse to sneak to the cave entrance and check that the dragons were actually real. [Better not, just in case.]
Also she would have had to go past HoneyBeard to do it. He had positioned himself near the only entrance to, and so only exit from, the cave as a kind of hall monitor. He was sitting on the ground working on some kind of craft project that involved cutting up pieces of animal hide with a stone blade.
Nelda hooked one foot under a ledge and watched the current crew of wall-painters. Speckle, the would-be pyromaniac, was depicting flame flowers as ochre-red hand prints against limestone walls.
[If I am here for a reason, does that imply that someone has a plan? And if so… who?] Nelda was a quasi-agnostic. [Not even really ready to commit to that.] So, god didn't offer an easy answer. And even if it did, was this a different reality with different gods?
"So, Speckle…" Nelda said.
"Why are there no female satyrs?"
"Why would there be female satyrs?"
[Why do so many satyrs act like university professors? I'm not getting graded on this, I don't have to figure out the answers for myself!] "Well, where do baby satyrs come from?"
Speckle continued to focus on his painting. "From the cave, over course."
Snort. "Nuh-uh. From the baby cave."
[Is that some kid of euphemism?] "And where is that?"
Speckles sighed. The painted wall in front of them provided a very distorted depiction of the river, the valley, and the mountain. He pointed at where the river was coming from. "River cave." To the red bank. "Dragon day cave." To a place near the top of the mountain. "Baby cave . When a satyr dies, one of us goes up to the baby cave and there is a new baby there. I was the last one."
If he had been human, Nelda would have guessed that Speckles was about twenty to twenty-five years old. She frowned. "How long do satyrs live?"
Speckles looked at her, blinked once and replied: "Until they die."
A lot of the satyrs had given her that look, like she was asking very stupid questions. Nelda persisted, "But dragons have females, and they lay eggs."
"Yes. Dragons are females."
"All dragons are females?"
"I think so, I don't know. You're silly." Speckles wiped his hands on his hairy thighs and wandered off towards the bonfire.
Nelda floated by one foot and looked at the painting. The big flower field in the foreground was bisected by the wavy river. There were lines of trees, mounds of rock and a big green mountain with a rounded grey peak in the background. [This is the satyr's world, and they don't want anything more out of life. I think I might be a little bit jealous of them just being happy with what they have. But doesn't it seem a little bit like some greater power is… looking after them?]
The only hint of any kind of wider world was a large soot-black dragon depicted above the mountain. It looked like a storybook dragon with jagged teeth, a swan like neck, large wings, spikes down it's back, and a long tail ending in an arrowhead shape. Even so crudely depicted looking at her gave her a chill so strong she shuddered.
[Is this the greater power?]
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