[00:55] Five Nayabaru passed through the area while they were sleeping – two in one batch before the noonday sun burnt down on their tarps, a clutch of three near dusk – but neither discovered the resting kavkema, or much sought to look for any. They were evidently travellers, not Hesha.
The direction the Nayabaru took was almost orthogonal to the one the kavkema had been forging through the shrubs, no doubt leading from one settlement to another. Was one of them their destination?
When night time finally came and they clambered down to regroup and reorient themselves, the answer began to manifest: They would boldly go where the Nayabaru had gone toward.
It was an unpleasant thought. If they were going to go toward where the Nayabaru had come from, they could have soothed themselves in the knowledge that over the course of the day, the number of potential enemies likely had decreased. Now, the opposite seemed certain.
They stayed off the path, cautiously keeping to its side, progressing as quietly as dry shrubbery allowed.
Eventually, the thin halo of light of the settlement in question started to whisper across the trees. Athechelt stopped them on a shallow but densely overgrown hill, gathering them to look down at the domesticated ceratopsians that were resting in a state between alert and dozing at the edge of the settlement, their horns granting them a certain majesty.
Nadani whispered: "Where do you think they might have taken them?", intending the question for their new friends from Asheenagiji's coast, but not restricting it to them.
Five houses were visible from their perch, but the trees began to huddle together here, potentially hiding more. The Kiveki light (the artificial, bulbous, abstract fire, diffusing light through the darkness) suggested the settlement went on for a little while, at least, set amongst further trees rather than central to the huts they could see.
[00:56] Of course, the forest was to their advantage, should they have to flee – it was easier to dodge a bullet if you weren't forced to run across an open plain.
[13:40] The problem seemed impossible without more intelligence, and gathering that intelligence would be tricky. If this was a Shyilun operation, they'd stake out the settlement for as long as they dared, likely several days, and possibly see if they could observe enough to send Evenatra in with markings close enough to bluff being a Nayabaru from two villages away.
There was no way they could explain THAT to their friends and visiting alien, though.
"It's odd that the two groups didn't travel together. That suggests coming from two different places. Could they be gathering for a reason? If they are, the place they're meeting may be where their captives are," Asraaban speculated.
[01:30] The idea that the visitors might be the focus of attention beyond their local bubble was not strictly new, but certainly more tangible given the confluence of the Nayabaru that the Watchers had tracked visually.
The light from Ghregg's device was a distressing blemish in the cover of darkness, but in theory he was back far enough that it shouldn't be compromising their secrecy at all. In practise, Nadani cringed and glanced back with more distress than hope for intel.
A sharp, curt, directed whisper from Evenatra, translating from the abstract map to speech: "None of the foremost houses. Further past the trees."
So there was their intel, at least. Whatever magic told Ghregg where his fellow hyuumans were, it seemed fairly reliable. Of course, if finding them was unlikely to slow them down, that left only their enemies. "Has anyone seen any Hesha yet?" Nadani asked.