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Gonyaul watched out of the corner of his eye at Voah’s adorable attempt to interact with the little reptile. His dreamy smile curling up into a smirk as his attention was pulled back down to earth. He had a mental picture in his head of the little creature befriending her and becoming a new boon companion that would ride atop her shoulder when it needed heat and hide in the wake of her shadow when it needed to cool down. Alas, his imaginative projection didn’t look like it was going to pan out.

Gonyaul chuckled at her jest. It was a dry and hoarse sound, from the reduced moisture in his mouth. There was an element of comedy to her delivery, with undertones of truth. Who in their right mind would take on such a hard and precarious search out this way for Voah? This realization, while they found themselves in a inhospitable and lethal environment, was simultaneously a comforting thought regarding their safety from Voah’s pursuers. Perhaps it was an error on his part to assume the past was left behind them in the east.

He lazily turned his head to face her, but that was all. He wasn’t lethargic, just resting as much as possible from the grinding and grueling strains of the day’s travels. He had removed his head covering completely to take advantage of the cool night air caressing his face and teasing his long hair; however, the rest of his body remained covered to keep off the sand and reduce heat loss.

He smiled, his pupils dilating even wider in admiration of her, and it felt like his dry lips had to peel apart. He had a sheepish look for his response.

“Honestly, I was pretending stars were glowing water bugs on the surface of large black lake. And in the morning a large golden fish would come chase away.”

He could have easily been thinking about the dangers from whence they came, where they currently were, or where they were going. No, not Gonyual, his thoughts were adrift in wonderland.

“Ever the poet.” she sighed. “May your golden fish stay in his deep lake bed tomorrow, or may his lake be obscured by murk. Kupen, give us a respite.” she resolved with a true prayer.

Voah heaved herself down with a heavy exhalation of relief and sprawled out in the sand next to Gonyaul with her body facing the opposite way. Long since unwrapping her sore feet to let them breathe in the cool desert air, Voah now situated herself snaking one leg between the two of his then propping it up over him, wiggling her sandy toes with a playful grin and an arched eyebrow. Not at all a subtle way to request a foot massage.

Gonyaul chuckled again. If ever there was a honest prayer that was one.

“Or maybe? We ask them to travel at night and sleep during hottest parts of day?”

Gonyaul welcomed the physical contact and his two hands flanked her elegant naked foot. Then pounced, gripped and left no room for escape. He began lovingly, thoroughly, and with a hint of sensuality massaging. The small grains of sand, that were inevitably good at getting where they pleased, acted as a mild exfoliate. He enjoyed the labor of pampering her. It felt like he was the lucky one.

“How are you?” His sentence structure and pronunciations were noticeably getting better from all the work they had been putting into it.

Yes it did seem strange that these people traveled in the middle of the day and not in the night, but what did she know of desert travel?

"Adikepnak ot usamijnak..." she answered his second question in broken Vauxian, giving him a sign that everything was perfect. She was obviously exaggerating and referring more to the current circumstance that her foot was being handled by a master.

She let out a sigh and with it came the truth. "I am so... exhausted. This is more than I expected, it rivals the journey across the Sea of Storms..." She looked over to see his face from her awkward position.

"Akusedikneg?" she asked the same question of him in response.

Gonyaul simply nodded, listening and empathizing with how she felt. Finishing her foot with a light stroking along the arches to tease a tingle up her spine, he then moved onto to the next foot. He made sure to give it the same amount of attention as the last, lest it get jealous.

“I am tired. Of moving, hunger, thirst and heat. I think fondly of when I can slip under some cool water. Will go to the bottom, close eyes, and wash away the harshness.”

As he moved up her foot to her lower calf, Gonyaul noticed a slight cut on her shin. It drew his attention so quickly, because he knew every inch of her body and he had not seen this before. Correction, he knew almost every area of her body. There were still several miraculous places he had not yet visited on her wonderful landscape. It also shocked him because he rarely saw a cut or bruise on her; and if he did, it didn’t last long at all, like water off a ducks back.

“I never seen this cut before?” He brought it to her attention in the hopes of an explanation.

"By the Pillars... yes, a cold rain would be wonderful... sss!" she sucked in air through her teeth and winced at the scratch that Gonyaul accidentally touched.

She had scraped it on something during chores, it wasn't even worth paying attention to as she was accustomed to these sorts of things and though they healed quickly, it didn't mean she didn't feel the pain. But this was strange, she thought that one would have healed by now.

"Maybe such intense and constant walking is keeping it from healing..." she wasn't sure about that. But for now she brushed it off and decided to just keep an eye on it. "Let's see how yours are doing."

Voah grabbed Gonyaul's leg and was getting ready to return the favor when the small lizard she had lured skittered its way onto her chest.

She flinched at the sudden movement and laughed, "Ooh! Hello, little one."

Gonyaul was placated by her response. He wouldn’t press further; however, he would look for it later to see if it had improved at a rate he was accustomed to seeing or not.

Gonyaul laughed at the sight of the lizard atop Voah, maybe his imagination was right after all. His laughing ended with a little bit of a coughing spurt which he clamped his mouth shut on to keep from spooking their new guest.

He whispered, “I think it wants you to give it foot massage.”

"Nnn? Is that right? Have you come to join us?" she put her finger out as if it the reptile would perch on it like a bird, instead it eyed the finger like a snack and nearly took a bite before she pulled back her hand.

"Ah ah ah, you sir, need to learn some manners." she waved a finger at the lizard who followed it with its whole head. Then she tucked her fingers into a loose fist and slowly inserted it under the lizard. Now it did perch but only on its front legs, giving her a look of expectation. Once the whole body of the tiny lizard was on her hand and its claws clamped firmly, she lifted him off to the side near where one of their food packs was.

"Go on. Have yourself a feast." she said, knowing it wasn't likely to eat much of the rations. It did grab something small and skittered off across the sand into its skull home.

Gonyaul watched with interest at how the lizard behaved and moved as it interacted with Voah and eventually hurried home. The creatures of the desert were fascinating in their design and well suited for the environment.

He felt encouraged. “If that little guy can survive here then we have a chance too.”

He then laughed and laid back down in the sand. “Though I doubt beautiful giant woman is going to descend down and take us in hands and offer meal.”

Voah joined in the laughter as she imagined a titanic woman, maybe Hoi or Cambena reaching down from the sky and rescuing them from the scorched sea of sand.

She reciprocated the courtesy to relieve some of Gonyaul's aches which she knew he suffered more than he let on. He was very good at suppressing, coping, or overcoming the pains and annoyances that came with life. Voah, on the other hand, was usually hiding or suppressing things rather than coping. By default, she was mindful of when to express vulnerabilities and when not to, depending on present company. It had always been that way and she was always putting on a performance unless she knew she didn't have to. This facade had been crumbling since she left for Arcadia. She had certainly been more forthright than she used to be, starting with Friar Balvaris. What must he think of her now?

These were the things that weighed on her mind as she started to doze off holding Gonyaul's foot. It was definitely time to go to sleep.

Gonyaul was already asleep, having passed out minutes before Voah realized herself fading. After she woke him, the two helped one another up and back over to their tent. They resembled two slow moving, drunken sailors, in how they assisted each other and staggered over the shifting surface of the sand.

The two crawled into their tent one at a time. They laid down next to one another and fell fast asleep.

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