The villagers and priestesses held a small ceremony for us to say goodbye. I didn’t know what to do, so I simply let them proceed as they wished. They poured river water from one set of bowls into another, offered up some prayers, and anointed us with purified water from a small vial.
They gave my companions blue turtle pendants to match my own, and one of the priestesses gave a special one to Bolton that had extra gems in the turtle. She was as round as she was tall, the first fat person I have seen within the confines of the Nanten.
The turtle, they told us, represented balance of life between water and land. It pleased Bolton immensely to receive his special pendant. I could tell because he smiled as the priestess backed away, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile like that.
Starlark has taken to calling Bolton a “Nanty-lover,” which gets under his skin far too easily. Their animosity has flipped in the last two weeks. Where Bolton was once the aggressor for no discernable reason beyond Starlark’s pedigree, now Starlark has turned on Bolton for his growing love of the Nantese.
It is no surprise that Starlark harbors ill-will towards Bolton after all he has endured, but it does not help our cause to have them bickering still. It worries me more that Starlark has taken up the offensive, and Bolton’s easily offended sensibilities regarding the Nantese add a very potent and unpredictable element to the mix.
Balthandar, surprisingly, remains the most distrustful of the Nantese. He looks down on them with pejorative distaste and refuses their aid or hospitality at every chance that does not cause direct insult. He is wise enough not to antagonize them as Starlark seems fond of doing, but he loves them no more for his own wisdom.
I don’t understand Bolton’s love of the Nantese, personally. Their customs are bizarre, and the world in which they live is a terror. They are a backwards people, to say the least. But I will say that I am impressed with their display of hospitality and the genuine nature with which they cared for us.
I don’t show it as best I can manage, but there is a part of my heart that warmed to the Nantese in the last week. Even if they are backward savages, they have done better by us than we would have ever done by them. It’s something to consider as we continue, and to humble us as we reflect.
We have begun east again and soon will angle more towards the south. Talita instructed us on where to find an easily crossable ford, and assured us that the KoraKora are nowhere near any longer. They gave up the chase once we were taken in, she said, for fear of Inifra’s wrath.
I cannot imagine how they feel so calm when Inifra is nowhere near, but I suppose that is between them and their goddess. Clearly she is not always present to stave off danger, otherwise we would not have needed to save that other village.
Back into the jungle we plunge. We should reach the Akari Grasslands in a few weeks if all goes well, though I am learning enough to know that I should never expect for that to happen.