They set up camp near the river and watched the satyrs attempts at fishing. But they fish back at their settlement must be more amenable to being caught, for here they had no luck and became quite annoyed. Well, Reg and BugleHead were. HoneyBeard was served mainly in a supervisory capacity, sitting in the sun on a large boulder and occasionally offering sarcastic suggestions.
Things were quiet for a moment, and SmithGuild said, "What I know about Asbolus' visions is that he can only consider one question of an evening, and should be persuaded by a gift of strong liquor. I have brought with us what remains of my stock." Here he cast a glare at the fishing satyrs. "So—"
"And these prophecies are accurate?" Typho asked.
SmithGuild thought about that for a while. "More than chance, less than mermaids. My sister ScribeGuild rates him a true seer who provides useful information, but the manner of expression can be somewhat cryptic... and he is wont to rhyme.
"There was a seer centaur from Mirth…" Phyllis muttered, in limerick cadence.
"Nelda made a good point earlier," Typho said. "Her manifestation of the writing on the dagger and the questions about creatures that turn people to stone could well be precognitive. Either she predicts the future or somehow changes things to meet an unconscious expectation, but that seems less likely. We discussed how multiverse theory might explain it, but with the Porter out of commission, there should not be any links between worlds… but!"
Typho paused dramatically, as if expecting to be badgered to give up his big reveal. The assembled company watched him glumly. Reg fell off a slippery rock into the river and seemed to be having trouble swimming back out with hoofed feet. Nelda half-stood but then saw that as soon as Reg stopped panicking, he realized he was in waist-deep water and stood up.
Typho tapped his tail tip, rattling the pebbles under their feet.
[I can't intimidate the troops, so I need to keep them sweet.] Fortunately Nelda had retained an ability honed during high school. When her attention drifted from the lesson she could always pull the last few words said by the instructor from her mind, whether she had actually been listening to them or not. "I'm sorry, Typho," she said. "You were saying there shouldn't be any links between worlds?"
"That's what we have been assuming," Typho said with enthusiasm. "On our world, other worlds seem to not be meaningfully accessible without the machine we built, which is now destroyed."
"Unless--" Jen began.
"Can we please put the metaphysics to one side, just for now and see where it leaves us," Typho said.
Jen rolled her eyes but allowed him to continue.
[He seems to be one of the few not to be overly impressed with pretty Jen. It bodes well for Echidna if he is more drawn to a brassy dragon than a winsome filly.]
"What I am saying," Typho continued persistently. "Is that this world may actually be inherently linked to other worlds. Both those like this but different in time progression, which would support accurate prophecy. And potentially those that are different, like our homeworld."
Nelda rolled the doll's eye in her hand. [And that could be a problem.]
SmithGuild coughed. "So that does rather undermine your idea that your world was the progenitor of this one. The influence could go either or both ways. It seems rather more likely that what is real here influenced what is myth there, rather than the reverse."
Typho nodded sagely. "That would suggest this world is one that is relatively technologically stable, which is consistent with what little I have seen to far with small, diverse populations concerned mostly with a subsistence lifestyle. And apparently, one that is not arduous enough to provoke… ingenuity. The gryphons representing an exception."
He nodded, and SmithGuild dipped his head in return.
"One thing it might mean," Nelda suggested. "Is that anyone could be capable of prophecy if they can access whatever this connection is. Or they are… open-minded." She smiled at Jen.
"Or intuitive, even impulsive," Suggested SnithGuild.
[Should I take that personally?]
"Oh no!" shrieked BugleHead, standing hock-deep in the river.
"What?" Nelda called.
"I lost the crown."
"The bird crown, it must have fallen off during the basilisk shenanigans!" he seemed genuinely distressed. "I am a terrible king!"
"Or maybe you freed them from the shackles of tyranny," Nelda offered. "They can come up with some other form of government that is a tad less arbitrary."
"You what?" Buglehead looked baffled.
"I'm just saying. I don't see how the Jaspers without a king are any worse of than the Jaspers with one. Although"—she turned to SmithGuild—"I suppose there was some logic to the system."
SmithGuild shrugged. "It's just something I came up with to stop them from bothering me all the time. In any case, I was talking about Asbolus's method because it means it would behoove us to order the questions we may have in term of their importance. Or possibly order them so those with urgent business elsewhere have their concerns addressed, such as they can be, with more alacrity."
"Hmm," Nelda seized the non-existent talking stick. "Rather than debating this in a potentially… untidy way. I suggest we all individually and separately choose our top five questions in order of importance. The master list will them be made mathematics by the simple method of giving all questions points. Five of one person's first choice and on down… and adding them all up. If we can all agree in advance to abide by the outcome."
"That's logical," Phyllis said with evident surprise.
"I have my moments." Nelda squinted up at the sky. "We could probably get further before this day is over."
She looked around.
Nobody but SmithGuild was paying her any attention now. "It might be just as well to rest here now and be out of the way of any party that might be seeking us. If we start early tomorrow, I think we will be at the journey's end."
[Journey's end with lovers meeting.] The fragment of Shapespeare burst into Nelda's mind. [But the one I love is not my lover, and it looks like our journey is only just beginning.]
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