Ghillie and Oliana distanced themselves from the group until they felt their conversation could not be heard.
“What is it?” Oliana asked quietly.
“It’s… well. Your childhood is rapidly approaching its end, whether you realize it now or not. Come tomorrow, you’ll no longer be able to see me,” Ghillie’s round eyes stared at the dark, leaf-carpeted ground. “I just… wanted to say goodbye. And that it’s been an absolute delight getting to spend so much time with you, despite the turmoil and all that.”
Oliana was in denial. “But… it’s only been a couple of days! I feel we’ve only just met! What’s changed about me so much that I’ll suddenly be an adult tomorrow?”
“You’re getting closer to figuring out your role in this story that Fate is telling. Once you know it, you’ll have direction, purpose. You won’t need help from a fellow like me anymore. I help lost children, as I’ve said, and you won’t be lost by tomorrow; you’ll have matured. Maturity means different things to different people, but in your case, the revelation you experience tomorrow will be what brings you out of the spring season of your life.”
Oliana did not quite know what to say. “I… I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for me, Ghillie. And I won’t forget my promise to you. I’ll never forget you, and in my heart I’ll always believe in you.”
Ghillie smiled wistfully. “I think I might actually believe that for the first time in many years, though my ears have grown tired of hearing it for as many times as it has gone unfulfilled. There is a chance you may see me again. I’ll be heading back to my woods, of course, but if you happen to be in the area and you find your heart so lifted that you feel like a child again, it’s as if you truly are. I hope that day comes sooner rather than later.”
Oliana embraced the fae and bade him a good night. She watched as Ghillie Dhu disappeared into the darkness and seemed to become one with the trees. In a matter of moments, he was gone.
Oliana returned to the camp in a somber state of mind. What could possibly happen tomorrow that teaches me my purpose? she wondered. Surely not banditry, she scoffed at the thought.
That night, Oliana had an extraordinarily vivid dream. She stood in the midst of a forest mottled with ferns. Mist shrouded most of her view, but she did not care to see beyond what stood directly before her. It was her father, alive, wearing his usual calm demeanor.
“Father?” Oliana could not believe what she was seeing, but was unable to rouse herself from the vision.
“Oliana,” he smiled. “How is my Oli?”
She shook her head and looked away. “Father, ever since you’ve been gone… things have happened. I’ve lost everything you ever worked for. I’ve failed you. I’ve failed everyone,” her vision was further obscured by the mist of her tears. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Oli,” Zolan placed his hand on her shoulder. “You haven’t failed. Not yet. There are times in life when you may feel you’ve lost everything, but when you find the strength to continue, there is much to regain. If there’s one thing I learned in life, it’s exactly that.”
“I don’t know how to continue!” she admitted, burying her face in her father’s chest.
“Oli,” he cooed, running his hand across her long hair. “Your past has always held the key to your future. It may be painful, but reaching into your past is the only way you will know what path to take from here. A part of you already knows what you must do. You need only unlock this part of your mind.”
“I don’t understand, Father!”
“I must go now, Oli. I know you will see clearly in the morning. I love you,” Zolan kissed her on the forehead and disappeared. Oliana woke up.
She found herself lying on the half-frozen ground, and before she had so much as sat up, her eyes caught a large, black feather beside her. A raven’s quill? she wondered, and a flash of painful memories invaded her mind about that fated morning in Ravenquill Moor and the preceding events. Her father’s passing, the surrender of her clan… Roth’s lifeless, bloodied face.
A flurry of emotion descended upon her as snow began to fall. It was not a desire for vengeance; it was something purer. It was the notion that she could never let what had happened to her continue to happen to so many other innocent people under the rule of the cruel king. She did not know how. She did not know when. But she knew, in that moment, that her purpose was to end Gillireth’s reign and free the people of Eirethstead and the countless others who had suffered under his regime.
She, alongside her faithful friend and her aching memories, would overcome the most powerful threat to peace in the land.
“Time for us to get going, dear,” Keon offered his muscled arm to help her rise. She was instantly roused from her state, her mind clearer than ever with resolve. She got to her feet then bent down to pick up the feather. She could see now that it was not from a raven, for when she moved it, the reflections of light made the quill glisten purple and green. It was fascinating, nonetheless, and she wore it proudly, like her past. She tied it into her deep red locks and, kissing Dechar on the forehead, followed Keon up the path to the city of Stromton.