Nashtra helped Himeko onto the first horse, and then helped Cerys. Peter insisted that he would be able to climb up on his own, but had a hard time because of his bruises. Bayani ended up helping him. He, at least, was able to climb up on his own. Nashtra did not get on his own horse right away, but led all of them out of the stable and towards the city gates. The guards looked over at him, waved him through, and then paid him no further mind.
Just like that, they were out of the city. The horses seemed relieved to be away from all of the humans, away from the busy and noisy city. And out in the open air. Nashtra got onto his horse, and they set off down the road together. The horses were more content to walk in the grass at the edge of the road than they were on the road itself, most of which was paved with grey stones. They seemed to prefer the softer ground Cerys noted. She and her friends did not mind either way. As long as the horses were happy, she had no reason to be bothered by whether or not they were on the road.
As they rode on, the faint outline of a forest appeared just to the west in the distance. A little later, the road diverged into two. The area north by north-east was clear and open; it looked as though it went through flat, grassy plains. Slightly to the west, however. the road went seemed to head into the forest. Cerys thought that it was more of a blue-green forest than the typical green-and-brown that she was used to.
Nashtra chose the road slightly to the west, and the horses seemed glad for it. They practically pranced when he turned them in that direction, carrying the riders with them.
They rode on until they came to the edge of the forest. It reminded Cerys of some of the beautiful paintings she had seen in a gallery somewhere, filled with dark blues and greens and even blacks, but illuminated and accentuated so that, despite the dark colors, it was still bright. This was no ordinary forest, all of them could tell. If ever there was to be a magical forest, this was one.
Nashtra pulled his horse to a stop just at the edge of it, and dismounted. He knelt at the place where the trees opened up in a sort of arch, the blue-green canopy shading him. He lowered his head, clasped his hands together, and was silent for several moments. It looked to Cerys as though he was praying to the forest. She to got off her horse and knelt beside him.
He glanced over at her, raised a brow, and whispered, “What are you doing?”
“I was thinking about asking you the same thing.”