Orlo ran straight past Oliana and picked up his adoptive son’s limp body. “Tihaltak?”
Realizing that he would not be roused, he ran him over to the firelight to see what was amiss. Oliana, weak from the cold and the strain and the fact that she had not eaten all day, followed him more slowly. She suddenly realized how difficult it would be to convince him to free Ylva from her chains so that she could heal Keon with springwater, language barrier or no.
The other Alfar that had followed Orlo to the scene tried to coax the mystical black creature before them, but the mare distanced itself and would not allow their touch. They picked up the bags of stolen goods and eyed the contents therein with satisfaction before finally returning to the fire to check Keon’s status.
Oliana stood behind Orlo and saw more clearly now than ever that Keon had suffered severe burns, not only on his arm but on his chest through his clothing as well. The young man’s head had also swollen even further, and dark circles had begun to develop around his eyes. Orlo cradled the body in his arms and shook his head in quiet denial, waiting for his son to wake up.
Ylva, unlike Dechar, had a view of the fire and was able to see that Oliana had returned.
“Oliana!” she yelled. “What happened?”
Dechar’s ears perked. “Oli? She’s back? Oli! Is everything alright?”
“Keon went and got himself nearly killed, and now I’ve somehow got to convince Orlo to let you free so that you can heal him, else he may die, that’s what happened!”
Orlo turned in the direction of her voice with malice in his eyes.
“He would be a charred corpse if not for me,” she tried to say calmly, gesturing to herself. While she had his attention, she pointed to Keon and then to Ylva, and back again. She then did the same, closing her eyes while pointing at Keon, pointing to Ylva, then opening her eyes as she pointed back at Keon. Orlo took offense, his best guess being that she was asking at a time like this for her friends to be freed so that she could take her leave. He muttered something in the Alfarian language and looked back down at his son.
“Any ideas?” she asked Ylva. “I’ve no clue how to communicate this.”
“Just one: you can come over and pull the end of this chain to set us free while the others are off guard. Then I can teleport to the spring and back, hopefully in time before the bandits retaliate. I don’t think there’s any other way.”
“Do you really think you can do it that quickly? They could gut me in seconds for that,” Oliana said wearily.
“I’ll protect you if they try to hurt you,” Dechar vowed. “Ylva’s quick; I think we can trust her in this.”
“How do you even know for certain that she’ll come back?” Oliana asked, surprised that Dechar would trust a soul when it meant her life could be threatened.
“I trust her. We have to trust her if you want to see this through. Something tells me that elf wouldn't be in a hurry to let any of us free if Keon died.”
Oliana nodded her head and walked casually over to the links. Orlo cast a suspicious eye on the girl right as she pulled the chain and it clanked to the ground. “Go!” she cried, and Ylva disappeared in a flash, leaving nothing but the bandit captain’s coat behind.
Orlo yelled furiously to his band, ordering them to kill the girl and her wolf. Dechar jumped in front of Oliana and let out a menacing growl. Just as the Alfar drew their arrows, Ylva appeared by Orlo’s side and poured water into Keon’s mouth. The anger in Orlo’s eyes turned to confusion and he cried for the bandits to stop. A tense silence fell over the camp as every set of eyes watched to see what would happen to Keon.
First there was nothing, but then a promising series of coughs emitted from Keon as he regained consciousness. The swelling in his head subsided before their eyes, and where reddened, oozing flesh had once been, there was now healed skin. Orlo stood and helped his son rise to his feet before embracing him with enthusiasm and allowing his tears to flow. Keon was confused more than anything else, but also flustered that Orlo was putting on such a show. Some of the bandits began to clap, and one of them even slapped Ylva on the back as she tried to hide her mild annoyance.
“Nice to see you too, old elf,” Keon said in the Alfarian tongue. “Are you about done?” he found it difficult to breath for how tightly Orlo squeezed him. Before releasing his son completely, he gave him a hearty kiss on the cheek, only serving to embarrass the young man further as the bandits laughed.
Orlo then surrounded Ylva and Oliana in each of his arms and thanked them in his native language. “We will feast tonight in celebration of a safe return and a successful heist!” the captain announced, and his men cheered.
Keon looked at Oliana questioningly, but was ushered over to sit with his father in front of the fire before he had an opportunity to say anything.
Oliana turned to Ylva. “Could you take me to the spring? I haven’t eaten all day and I’m absolutely freezing. And I need to talk to you about something.” Ylva nodded and took her away without hesitation, seeing the urgency in her eyes.
“Um… alright then.” Dechar said, perplexed that Oliana seemed to be avoiding him.
Oliana stooped down and cupped the warm waters to her mouth with near-instant relief. Then she spoke.
“First, I'd like to apologize for getting off on the wrong foot with you. But that's not why I wanted a word. It’s about Dechar. I spoke to a woman today who knew things she could not have known without a strong connection to Fate. She was a talented mystic. And she told me that Dechar and I need to separate for a while. He’ll go with you, but I’ll stay behind with the bandits. You and I both know he would never agree to that. So I'm afraid we'll have to trick him, and I'm going to need your help.” She shed a silent tear into the pools.