Dechar was a pup again, and with his front paws resting against a tall tree, he was beckoning a very young Oliana to climb down.
“Come join me, Dechar! Climb the tree! Can’t you climb?”
“No,” he answered. “I can’t do it. Please come down, Oli!”
Oliana laughed. “I’m not coming down until you climb this tree, Dechar!” She folded her arms in defiance, only to lose her balance and swing off the branch supporting her. She let out a scream.
“No!” Dechar yelled as she plummeted toward the ground. She was now much higher in the air than he had initially thought.
Well before she would have hit the snow beneath, however, Dechar was shocked to see Oliana transform into a raven and begin to soar through the air above him.
“Can’t you fly, you silly wolf? Come join me,” she repeated, flapping her wings.
Dechar became very upset. “I can’t!” he yelled. He was a fully grown wolf again. He watched as the black bird floated down to meet him.
“Oh Dechar,” she shook her head. “If only you would believe that you are capable of flight. Then you could join me.”
He glanced off to the side to see red blood staining the white snow. It came from the corpse of the man he’d killed in the dungeon.
Dechar awoke from his nightmare in a cold sweat. He noticed immediately that the weather was surprisingly spring-like in this area, which jogged his memory. He lay on a bed of moss, remembering the events of the previous night. Neither of the Dechi had found the strength to reach the pools Ylva had located. They had had the fortune, however, of finding a small reservoir of water in the hollow of a tree.
Ylva knew a little about survival in the wild, and when she had seen ants crawling into the hole, she had demanded Dechar’s shirt, dipping it far down and squeezing drops into her mouth with vigor. She could taste something like the scent of an animal mixed in with the liquid, but she was far too parched to care. After having dipped the shirt several times, she finally had allowed Dechar to have the few remaining drops. They had found a place to sleep shortly thereafter, resolving to reach the greater water source the next day.
Dechar raised himself and looked for his companion, who had uprooted some of the moss for a blanket and was still asleep nearby.
“Ylva,” he said. No answer. “Ylva!” She jerked awake and gave Dechar a blaming look. “I’m sorry to wake you,” Dechar said, “but we really should get moving, don’t you think?” It was still a little dark outside, but he did not want to waste any time in finding Oliana.
Ylva did not reply but threw the moss off of her and stretched her arms before rising. Dechar’s wound had stopped bleeding the night before, but he lifted his shirt to check it again.
“You’re lucky it was so superficial,” Ylva said, noticing his action. “Bleeds a lot initially but shouldn’t cause you any real problems, so long as it doesn’t fester.” They set off again; the pools weren’t far now.
It was still morning when they reached a magnificent sight. The bluish-green pools, festooned in mist, were translucent, and the pair could see that the water ran deep through a network of underwater caverns with glistening rocks at the base. A powerful geyser-like spring fed all of the pools, gushing from a rocky slope and cascading in a circle of tiny waterfalls to meet the basins all around.
They ran the last few paces to the water and began to passionately imbibe. Dechar had had the prudence to hesitate a moment before drinking so that he could see how Ylva drank; he had considered that it might be frowned upon to stick his tongue in the water in this form.
As he scooped the liquid in his strangely human hands, he felt its warmth, and brought it to his lips. He sensed an instant rejuvenation coursing through his body that startled him. He looked over to Ylva again to see if she had experienced the same thing.
Indeed she had, and Dechar noticed that her very build had a sturdier look to it than he had seen in the frail young prisoner the day before. He lifted his shirt to find no trace of a stab wound at all. The pair looked at each other in wonder and delight, and Dechar saw Ylva smile for the first time since they had met.