After paying respects to Jarrah under the stars, Oliana and Ghillie Dhu had reached the healing spring. Oliana had dipped her hand into the warm water, only to realize that it glowed beautifully upon agitation. It was the most magical thing she had ever seen, and such a beautiful sight had done much to calm her nerves.
Ghillie asked the nearby trees to form woven root hammocks in which the two could rest, and Oliana was amazed at how comfortable hers was. She fell asleep without delay.
When she awoke, it was to the tune of Ghillie’s voice. “Oliana. There’s someone here.”
“What?” she asked, still groggy.
“Come see for yourself.”
She left the hammock and tiptoed quietly toward the pools, which she was surprised to see were even more impressive in the daylight. Two eccentric-looking individuals caught her eye on the far end of the water. The woman wore a shredded rag of a dress and had long, tangled whitish hair, while the man had salt and pepper hair with a dark beard and wore a very baggy ensemble. They were both tall and their bodies looked strong.
“Are those other faeries?” Oliana whispered, having seen only one person which rivaled them both in curious appearance.
Ghillie was almost offended by the suggestion. “Of course not! But they are a peculiar lot, aren’t they?”
Oliana crept closer, trying to get a better look, but her movement betrayed her. The man spotted her.
Immediately, he bolted toward her, shaking his arms, yelling “Oli! Oli, I’ve found you!”
Paralyzed with confusion, Oliana was scooped up in the man’s warm embrace.
From over his shoulder, Oliana could see the woman running up to her as well.
“Are you daft? She can’t recognize you!”
The man hesitated and released the girl from his arms, searching her eyes desperately for recognition. The man did remind her of someone instantly, but that someone was her father. That wasn’t it. Oliana returned his gaze, noting the gold-tinted spheres. There was something very familiar about those eyes; not their shape, or the surrounding face; no, it was the soul behind them. Could it be? She remembered Jarrah’s tale.
He smiled charmingly in a way that equaled the toothy grin Oliana had seen so many times on his wulfen face. She could not decide whether to laugh or cry, so ended up doing both at once. They hugged again and Oliana could see the woman eye her cautiously, then slip away to the far side of the spring, out of sight.
“I-- I thought you were dead,” Dechar said, a tear running down his own cheek as he cupped her face in his hands, a very human reflex.
“I feared the same about you,” Oliana said, placing her hand on his. Oliana’s mood suddenly changed. “I have so much to tell you. About where you came from. Jarrah found me last night--”
“Jarrah?” Dechar said, stepping back a bit. “Where is he?”
Oliana had borne so much pain over the last couple of days, and was so happy to see him, that she managed to tell him somewhat calmly that the old man had passed and had been given a proper resting place.
“I’m so sorry, Oli.”
“That’s alright, he was quite peaceful in the end. But what he came to tell me… it changes everything, but I haven’t quite figured out how. But where are my manners?” she considered the unintroduced faerie standing by her side. “Dechar, meet Ghillie Dhu.”
Dechar’s face curled into confusion. “Wh- Where is this Ghillie Dhu? I’m sorry, I don’t see anyone.”
Ghillie had simultaneously whispered a reminder to Oliana that adults could not see him. “Ooh!” she said. “Umm… I’m only telling you this now because you’re the most likely to believe me. Ghillie Dhu is a faerie, but only children can see him. Apparently I’m still a child and you’re not. He saved me, Dechar! He killed the general and gave me spring water, then led me here.”
Dechar did not know how to respond. “Uh. Really?” He found himself wondering if the spring water had diluted her mind.
“Yes!” Oliana said, a little frustrated. “Come on, you’ve got to believe me! Ghillie, isn’t there a way for me to show him?”
Ghillie said no.
“Don’t worry Oli. I believe you see this man.”
“But you don’t believe he exists,” Oliana read between the lines. “You think I’ve gone mad.”
“All I know is that we’ve been through an awful lot these last couple of days. But I have a friend, too! Of sorts…. Where’d she go?” he asked, blinking around him.
“I saw her disappear on the other side of the spring,” Oliana said.
Dechar paled. Disappear? Had she left already?
“Stay here,” he told Oliana, feeling somewhat guilty to order her to do anything. “Ylva can be a bit touchy when it comes to humans.” It may be that both of us seem to have imaginary friends, Dechar thought. Suddenly a faerie did not seem so implausible when he contemplated trying to explain to Oliana that his guide had likely teleported away.