I opened my eyes to stark, snow-painted wolds. The reflection of sunlight bouncing off the immense bluffs impaired my vision at first; after my eyes adjusted, my stomach churned.
“Where is Oliana?” my question rang out louder than I had expected, bouncing off the highlands in echoes.
“I told you she and I had a secret, did I not? She wanted to stay with the bandits,” Ylva replied strongly.
“There’s no way--”
“Dechar, hear me out. She met a mystic woman in Stromton. Said she was like Jarrah, whoever that is, but with a stronger connection to Fate. This woman told her that you and Oliana needed to split up for a while for your own good. She knew you would never agree to it so we had to--”
I brought my face up close to Ylva’s. “You take me back there right now! Oliana’s just a young girl. We can’t leave her alone.” Those blue eyes were still as hard as ice. I backed off a bit and tried to appear calm. I was still mad as hell, but it seemed like Ylva might react more positively to feigned composure. “Ylva, please. Think of what those bandits could do to her. We can’t just leave her.”
I could see that I still wasn’t getting anywhere. This was unbelievable. “Ylva, come on! I know Oli likes to cling to this fate stuff, but she’ll grow out of it! Let’s face it, it’s a method of coping more than anything.”
“Do you really think that about her? That she’s crazy for believing in a hopeful path?”
“I didn’t say that--”
“You might as well have.”
I heaved a sigh. “You want to know who Jarrah was? Jarrah was a senile old man who used to be her counsel. Then, before he died, he claimed to have a connection to Fate. He was always a little off, and I imagine after the clan got taken over he just lost it altogether. He told Oliana things that… that couldn’t possibly be true!”
“None of your damn business!”
“It has to do with you, doesn’t it? Jarrah said something about you that you didn’t want to accept, so now you’re dismissing him and dismissing Oliana’s wishes! Well it doesn’t matter! I’m not taking you back!”
I turned a quick circle to try to dispel the rage that was building within me. It didn’t work very well. “I CAN’T BELIEVE I TRUSTED YOU!” The hills joined in a chorus, I trusted you, trusted you!
Ylva told me to shut up and tried to cover my mouth; she said an enemy tribe might be nearby. That was it. I wouldn’t normally hit a woman, but this was for Oli.
I ripped her hand off of me with one arm and sent the other fist flying. It hit air. She’d disappeared. I heard her voice behind me and spun around. Damned teleportation.
“You know, I think if you had your senses about you, you’d be glad that I was doing what Oliana believes is best!”
She was right. I had lost reason, but I was still blind to that fact. I tried to punch her again, but she teleported away just the same. I had put so much force into the throw that I lost my balance with nothing to hit, and my face landed in the snow.
“Really, Dechar, now you’re just being childish.”
I got up on my knees as melted snow bled through my clothes. “You’d be acting like this, too, if you’d made the mistakes I’ve made.”
“What are you talking about? You’ve just got to have a little faith in her. Let her spread her wings,” she offered a hand to help me up, but I lifted myself.
I took a moment to wipe the snow off of my ridiculous coat and tunic thing before explaining. I looked away from her while I told her; I didn’t want her to see me cry. Though I was still fairly unfamiliar with the human sensation of crying, I knew that recounting something such as this could bring forth tears. “It was a little over three months ago. Oliana’s father, Zolan, wanted to go hunting in the moors near our village. I had a bad feeling about it. I’d been picking up strange scents around Ravenquill the last couple of days, so I offered to go with him. He said it wasn’t far. That he wouldn’t be long, that he’d just go alone. ‘Oliana will watch over the clan while I’m gone,’ he said. ‘And you’ll watch over Oliana, won’t you?’
“I promised Zolan I would take care of her. Do you know what happened to him that day? He was mauled to death by a bear. A couple of the men in the clan found what remained of his body the next day." My voice quivered like a leaf in the wind. "I know I could have saved him had I disobeyed and followed him. Now all I have left is to try to fulfill his last request. Which was that I watch over Oliana.” I wiped stray tears from my face and looked back at Ylva. “And I’m not going to let her die for the same damn reason.”
Ylva’s eyes had softened, and I could see her struggle for the right words. “I’m sorry, Dechar. Teleporting over long distances is very taxing. I couldn’t even make a solo trip to the healing spring from where we are now, let alone take us both back to her. Perhaps I could check on her a bit later, when I’ve regained my strength.”
“But you filled up a canteen with spring water. It should still be effec--” I looked down at the belt on my trousers, as I had been the one carrying the canteen. I could see that when I had stumbled, it had cracked. It had drained at my side until there was nothing left, and I hadn’t even noticed. I didn’t have words.
“Hey,” Ylva rested her hand on my shoulder. I read the genuine concern written across her face. “Stop being so hard on yourself. I think right now we should just take a walk and find our bearings. She’s going to be alright, Dechar. I just know it.”