He stared at her warily for a moment, and then looked back to the opening in the trees. “I am asking the forest if I can bring you in,” he explained, keeping his voice soft. “I am also asking the forest to welcome myself back home.”
“You have to ask permission for that?” Cerys whispered back.
“Most people from this forest do not leave it,” he said, still keeping his voice down. There was a sort of private quietude between then, and Cerys found that she quite liked it. “This is their home, and they are tied to it. I am one of the few of my kind who have received permission from our chief shaman to leave.”
Cerys nodded. Even though she was not part of a tribal culture, she understood what it meant to be connected to one’s land. “Should I ask for permission with you?” she asked him.
Nashtra gave her a curious look, blinked, and then shrugged. “Nobody has ever asked me that before.”
“But you have brought other guests into the forest?”
“A few here and there”, he replied. Then, after thinking about it a little longer, he added,“You are very different from any of them.”
Cerise very nearly blushed. She never told anyone, but she took it as a compliment when she was told that she was different, or even unique. Most of the time, the other teenagers at the high school would mock her or criticize her, but everyone now and then she was told that she was different. That part she liked, whether or not the person saying it meant it as a compliment.
“Thank you,” she whispered, not entirely sure that he would be able to hear her. She was not entirely sure that she wanted him to.
She turned away from him and looked straight ahead, towards the forest. The shades of cobalt and amethyst were mixed in with highlights icy blue and lavender. It seemed somehow more alive than any other forest she had ever seen before. It was active, even crackling, with life. It was a curious place, and she hoped that she would be able to enter it.
Nashtra lowered his head again, his lips moving soundlessly until a breeze began to pass over then, a gentle wins that wrapped itself around the forest and caressed them in this wake. It picked up strands of his hair, gentle as a mother combing it, and when it passed, letting the golden strands slowly float back down across his shoulders, he stood up. There was a faint smile on his lips.