Nelda joined the parting on the back patio. If you could call a roman style mosaic in white and blue marble just 'a patio.' Jen was blushing, her bright red cheeks a clear contrast to her pallid complexion.
"What's going on here then?" Nelda asked.
Now SmithGuild was blushing too and clearly tongue-tied.
"What?" Nelda turned to HoneyBeard and raised her hands in mute exasperation.
The satyr replied, sanguinely. "Cat-bird here was asking how a male human rides a horse without crushing his cock. Seems like a perfectly reasonable question to me."
"Uh-huh," Nelda said. "But what about the others?"
Jen shrugged and brushed some imaginary lint off her vest. "Hanging around to listen to Phyllis bitch, I imagine. For me, there is nothing to discuss. If I can't have horses, then we definitely need to get back the unicorn. That's exactly why I left everything behind. To be part of something more… something just… more."
BugleHead popped out from behind a rough-hewn hedge wielding the unicorn horn triumphantly. "Ka-west! Whoot!" he called out, grinning.
Jen clapped excitedly. "Can I see it. Please?" She reached out her hands.
Nelda didn't miss that now it seemed like HoneyBeard had an attack fo the green-eyed monster. [Not Phyllis, jealousy.] Jen and HoneyBeard conferred enthusiastically over the alicorn. HoneyBeard watched with a sour expression on his face.
It occurred to Nelda for the first time that BugleHead seemed a good deal younger than HoneyBeard. If he were a human, she might guess about twenty or a bit more — about the same as Jen.
"Wait," Nelda said. "BugleHead are you wearing the Jasper crown?" The crown, sized for a parrot head, was tiny. It sat crookedly amidst the satyr's curly locks.
"Yep." BugleHead grinned at her. "It was the only way I could get them to give it to me."
The Jaspers were a score or more of red metallic phoenixes that looked more like enormous parrots. They had quieted down a lot, but quite a few of them could be seen perched in the shrubs and on top of the walls and stumps all around them. Most of them were watching BugleHead.
"Idiot king fo the idiot birds," HoneyBeard muttered.
They didn't scratch it, did they?" Nelda asked. She joined BugleHead and Jen. The centaur was holding the horn, which was about as long as a walking stick. It tapered from the width of a mini-can evenly down to a slightly blunted point.
It was marked with a deep groove that spiraled around its entire length. Nelda reached out her right hand and touched the ivory-like surface gently.
Inside the curling crease, it seemed like a few small glittering lights lit up. Nelda blinked. [Is that just reflections.] The lights shimmied and swirled up the length of the horn to the tip ad vanished.
"Oh, it tingled," Jen said.
"I knew you were a unicorn priestess," BugleHead said.
"What? I've touched it before, and it never did anything."
The satyr continued to grin like he was having the best birthday ever. "That was before you decided that you would bring the unicorn back. Now, it knows."
Nelda rubbed her fingertips; they felt a bit numb. "Because that's not creepy or anything."
Jen was staring at her, the pupils of her pale blue eyes wide despite the bright morning light.
Nelda turned to see SmithGuild awkwardly hitching up his pats in a way that was probably giving him a self-inflicted wedgie. "So," she asked. "Does anyone know how the unicorn got killed in the first place?"
"Rumors abound. SmithGuild said. "This is meant to have happened many hundreds of years ago. I may not even have been alive then…"
Nelda took a little while to process that and lost track of a few words of what he said.
"…say it was the dragons. Because the unicorn could do or be used for something they didn't want to happen, Scribeguild might know, but at this time of the year she goes to the snowlands."
"Yeah," Nelda mused. "And maybe Phyllis doesn't need to know the dragon twist to the tale. At least not right away."
[Intuition and guesswork is a bit of a crazy strategy. I hope this idea that my unconscious is more clued into things on Mirth than the rest of me is true. But does that mean that if I learn more, I will be able to do more… or do less. Can ignorance be a super-power?]
[Or this just a stupid idea I've infected them with to assuage my guilt at having no idea what I am doing?]
"Do you mind if I try that again?" Nelda asked Jen.
"By no means." Jen held the alicorn out, presenting it on her open palms.
This time Nelda wrapped her entire hand around the middle of the horn. The lights started up again like a bunched of technicolor tinkerbells. Despite never having had a vision before, Nelda was struck with a powerful you-are-about-to-have-a-vision feeling.
And then she did,
"Every member of the Watson family has been a natural horseman or woman," the man said.
He reached down to the little girl, she was maybe five or six and dressed in little Burberry riding ensemble with riding boot and a black velvet riding cap. The child was looking at the pony that had been led up to her with obvious fear.
The man was wearing an incongruously black suit with slicked-back hair and a profuse beard. He seemed utterly indifferent to the child's terror. He lifted her and placed her on the back of the pony.
"Hold onto the pommel, little miss."
The girl flapped her legs like an ungainly frog. With a trembling voice she said, "I don't want to daddy."
"You'll like it, girl. No daughter of mine is going to be afraid of a fat little pony. We'll have you a real mount soon. Perhaps one of my polo…" As he spoke, he nodded to the stable hand who was holding the pony's bridle.
As the pony took a step, the little girl immediately freaked out; she squealed at the deafening piercing pitch that only a panicked child can reach. The ponies ears flicked back, and it bolted, wrenching free its flapping reins.
The girl clutched the pommel, but her ass and legs bounced into the air with ever bound. She continued to shriek as the pony left the stable yard and disappeared from sight.
The man turned to his assistant, who was standing back against the wall. "Make a note to get a genetic test on little miss Brenda." He turned and started walking back towards his car. "I really am not sure that she is one of mine. And you know what her mother is like."
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