Nelda was reviewing the prophecy glumly. The page was getting more smudged. The meaning also only got less clear, the more she thought about it.
Jen had reported back that Asbolus was knocked back from generating such an epic prognostication. He would be resting till noon at least and not up for a repeat performance that night. But he had, at least, said he had some old paper that spoke to resurrecting a unicorn. So when he felt a bit better, he would make a copy of them for Nelda.
Phyllis seemed happy to bask, reptile-like in the midmorning sun. Jen wandered in the vegetable garden popping the occasions leaf or fruit into her mouth. Nelda considered suggesting caution. I would not be fun traveling with a centaur experiencing digestional distress….
In the shadow of the hall, Tyrone made an appearance. He made a surreptitious come-hither gesture that suggested a desire for discretion.
Nelda obliged, ambling over all casual-like.
Once she grew close, Typho grabbed her arm in a rather presumptuous manner and pulled her deeper into the shadow of a small grove of fruit trees. "Look I know there's a lot of important stuff going on here—"
"But?" Nelda asked patiently.
"But I turn into the male version of a unique female, and maybe that's not totally insignificant either."
Nelda nodded. "That's true."
"It is?" Typho squeaked. He seemed ill-prepared for being agreed with. As if his bluster has very little to back it up.
"I've been thinking," Nelda continued. "HerbGuild—you haven't met her yet—had the idea that the portal changed people to match their other half. But in your case, it's someone you haven't even met. That does suggest something…" she shrugged "Fated, maybe?"
Typho nodded eagerly.
"I'm also wondering… does some part of your family come from Ireland maybe?"
"You what?" Typho looked baffled.
"I've been trying to make sense of this lame sonnet," Nelda grumbled. "I'm thinking Tyr – Own. Place of Owen, right. Tyr Owen just like, it's a province in Ireland, right?"
All she was getting in return was a blank look. [Work with me here, snake-boy.]
Nelda pressed on. "The poem says: the land of Owen has traveled to its heart. So, everything so far is suggesting… this is what you're meant to do."
"My dad was called Tyrone, and I was named after him," Typho said with a shrug. "And he was named after some lame old actor called Tyrone Power, the third no less. Zorro and shit—wish they'd called me Antonio instead. These days people think of Tyrone as some big guy, and they see me and just laugh." Typho sighed. "Only in my family is being an experimental electrical engineer considered a right embarrassment." He crossed his arms somewhat defensively over his pretty average torso. [Not body-builder material, but nothing to be ashamed of.]
Looking at his lower bodies twitching muscular coils, Nelda remarked, "Well they wouldn't laugh now, would they? I mean, no one going to laugh at this." She gestured to the muscular coils of his giant body.
Typho looked doubtful.
"You're a dragon chimera now," Nelda said, trying to sound impressed. "And Echidna is a dragon. And one hell of a woman too. You've got a lot to live up to with her setting the tone of this—sub-species, or whatever." She leaned in closely and whispered. "But I think you can do it. Actually, I know you can."
Tyrone's face seemed to flicker with conflicting emotions. "The prophecy, whatever the hell it means, just sounds like a description of what will happen," he said defensively. "Its in the past tense. Like someone n the future is looking back and just saying it happened. Does that mean it is meant to happen, and according to who? Does that mean it's good?"
[Lord save me from deep thinkers.]
Nelda rested her hand on a gnarled branch. "What Asbolus said is that a prophecy sometimes comes true, but in a way you wouldn't have expected. So maybe it's not so much what happens as how it happens."
[Is there a tactful way to suggest he go about this with an open mind, not rose-and-fedora creepy romanticism? No. There isn't.]
"So I don't just have to romance Echidna, I have to be good at it?" Typho said.
One of the little orange spiders that seemed to infect the place ran over her fingers and off down the branch like it had terribly important business off amongst the shivering leaves, "If I can give you one piece of advice it would be this. Keep in mind that you don't know Echidna. She has had a hard life in a world you don't know a lot about. Your first job is to get to know her, Oh, and try not to stare at her tits; she's a bit insecure about them."
"Why would I… does n't she wear clothes?"
"Welp, she's a dragon that just happens to have some humanoid body parts. And clothing generally speaking isn't something they do."
"Right. Right. She is a dragon. I'm going to need her help to learn how to… be a dragon."
"Well, that's true. And if down the line there is some kind of big conflict. Well…"
Tyrone leaned forward. "What?"
"I'm just saying, Phyllis has many excellent qualities, but I am not sure diplomacy and begging the great and powerful dragons to charity towards the unflighted races is going to be her strong suit."
Tyrone's mouth twitched.
"You're our best hope for a drag-ambassador." Nelda nudged Typho on the arm. "And I can only guess that my job is to get hold of a unicorn."
"Huh. We might have done better the other way around." Typho said,
"To get a unicorn, you're meant to use someone who's a virgin, like." His face blushed darkly.
"Are you suggesting I'm not as pure as the driven snow. Or should it be the undriven snow." Nelda laughed. "Well, maybe SmithGuild will qualify, and maybe that whole thing is some latter church nonsense not proper monster rules. Tonight I hope to get some more info about the whole unicorn thing from the seer tonight. And we can work out the best way to get you and Phyllis off to the land of dragons staring tomorrow."
She looked off in the direction--beyond the trees and a tundra full of hostile centaurs--of the brooding mountains and Echidna's cave. A chill wind swirled around them and for all the vaunted prophecy in her hand… an uncertain future lay ahead.
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