They went on talking as the horses pulled them along the road, sometimes about the forest’s resources, other times about James and Baron Lexavier. They passed through villages here and there, but never stopped the wagon. At one point, Cerys turned around to see that her brother and Bayani had fallen asleep, and then looked to Himeko, who was becoming drowsy beside her. She decided that she may as well give in to the fatigue, and leaned against her friend to let her eyes close.
When next she roused, it was with Nashtra’s hand on her belly and his voice calling her name. She opened her eyes and stretched, then knit her brown when she realized where his hand was.
“What are you doing?” Cerys groaned as she sat up and pushed his hand away, then stretched again.
“Waking you,” he said, his voice soft and low.
“By rubbing my belly?”
Nashtra blinked, looking confused by the question. “Indeed. Is that not how you are roused?”
“It might have been effective,” she sighed, “but it’s kind of… weird.”
“Is there a different way that your people rouse you?”
“By the shoulders, usually,” Cerys explained, putting her hands on his shoulders and shaking him gently in order to demonstrate.
Nashtra looked baffled at first, and then gave a smile. He took her hands and gently pulled them away from his body. “In Vathalloín, that kind of thing means anger.”
“Oh,” Cerys said. “But if you rub my belly, it just seems… well…” She sighed, unwilling to explained why it felt too intimate for him to touch her like that. After all, why should it? She was certainly not used to it, but in the end he had done nothing wrong. Instead, she woke her friends.
“She where are we now?” Cerys asked while her friend rubber her eyes.
“This is the central village of Vathalloín,” Nashtra told her. “The chief shaman has asked us to stop here for the evening.”
“The– the chief shaman? To what do we ow such an honor?”
Nashtra chuckled at her question. “He does not consider himself so apart from the rest of us, as some of the human leaders do. Besides that, he has promised to help us get to the northern edge of the forest quickly once morning comes.”