Gedron laughed nastily. "Rilka, you are a child and you would believe any foolery. You thought you were saved from drowning by a Vespari demon last season!"

This is the story of how Rilka was saved from drowning by Ronaall the man-beast.


Rilka and the Beast

Lake Nivaria, the largest lake in all of Keltor, is found upon the Isle of Fomhika. Fed by the Nivian, its waters are ice cold, even at the height of Summer. At this time, many folk are unable to resist the draw of the lake, and it is a popular place to cool off. As such, it is very, very crowded.

I prefer my own company, and so I would visit the lake not in summer, but early autumn, when the days were still warm but did not hold the scorch which drove people to the water. It was always very peaceful and soothing to paddle my coracle when no one else was about, I did not fear the icy waters for I was confident that I was skilled enough not to tip the boat.

How wrong I was.

Just this last autumn past, I was out on the lake once again. It had been a warm day, and had gotten unusually hot once I was already on the water. Others began to join me at the lake side. Rather than retreat home again, I paddled further out to escape the crowds. When I reached the center of the lake, I pulled the paddles into the coracle and lay down to bask alone in the light of Kalinda. As I lay there, under the clear blue sky, gently rocked by the waves, I found it impossible to keep my eyes open and I drifted slowly off to sleep.

****************

I slept right through the afternoon and into the evening when, hours later, I was awoken by the cool of night. The lake was empty aside from myself, all of Fomhika gone home to sleep or to revel in their gardens, no longer assaulted by the heat. I was completely alone, which would have been nice, except that the weather had changed dramatically. A wind had picked up, just a light breeze really. Not a thing which would concern me ordinarily, but it was past sunset and the light was fading rapidly. I hardly see and the wind was making the waters choppy. To top it all off, my limbs and fingers were numb with cold. Nevertheless, I could not stay in the center of the lake all night.

I rubbed my hands together, trying to increase the circulation and coax some warmth back into my flesh. After a while, I felt that my hands were warm enough to be getting on with and began to paddle. Now the icy waters were a problem. I had barely noticed them during the day, but now every splash I made with the paddles sent shivers down my spine. It made it very hard to paddle and despite my long rest, my muscles were quickly becoming tired. I began to panic.

Recognizing how dangerous that was, I stopped and tried to calm myself. I breathed carefully and evenly until my heart rate began to slow, but it was then that I realized just how dark it was. A clouds began to drift over. Before long, both moons were obscured and I was plunged into almost complete darkness. I tried to stay calm. I was Poverin's daughter! Always held together and perfectly composed. Ever trying to convince my father that I was more than able to keep up with my brothers. Was I to be undone by a little darkness?

In anger, I grabbed the oars and began to paddle with a vengeance. Probably not the smartest thing I've ever done. Perhaps the Vespians are right to call us fools for playing with our coracles. At any rate, it was this increased effort which was my undoing. I over measured a stroke and felt myself into the icy water below.

****************

It was now that I began to panic earnest. I was normally a good swimmer, but I had been so cold to start with, that I was already mostly numb and the icy water pressed in around me, cramping my muscle's and trying to force my lips to part. To push itself in on me. I refused to give, kicking off my shoes and putting everything I had into making for the surface. Yet once again I was undone by the darkness, the coracle I had fallen from made no shadow and I came up directly under it, hitting my head. I felt despair close in even as unconsciousness took me. There was no hope for me now.

****************

So imagine my surprise when I woke to dry land under my back and a heavy weight on my chest, forcing the water from my lungs. I sat up quickly, spluttering, to behold the strange man-thing that had saved me.

He appeared human, for the most part, but his ears were furred and his eyes held sharper slants than an Acanthan, his eyes a curious golden colour. He scared me, but somehow I felt safe despite this.

'Who are you?'

The man-thing smiled, revealing sharp predatory teeth, "A good question, my Lady Rilka. And not one which is easily answered. You may call me Ronaall"

I opened my mouth to thank him, but he cut me off, "Hush child. I should not have interfered, it may cause more trouble than can be undone, but we must not increase the damage. If you follow the shoreline, facing Zorik the bright all the while, you will come across those anxious to find you."

And then he was gone.

****************

I did as the man-thing bade me and it was not long before I saw lanterns in the distance and heard people shouting my name.

"I'm here! I'm here!" I called, breaking into a run.

Moments later I was surrounded by my father's legionnaires and, to my disappointment, my brother Gedron.

"Rilka!" he shouted, "Where in the name of the song have you been!?"

I pursed my lips, unsure if I should tell, but Gedron narrowed his eyes and shouted "Out with it girl!"

His manner angered me, but I had always been taught to be truthful and so I recounted the tail faithfully to my least favorite brother.

When I finished he was smiling, but it wasn't a nice smile.

"Clearly, the bump to your head has caused you to hallucinate – or perhaps you just enjoy making up tales, " he sneered "Either way you're lucky to be alive, perhaps this will teach you not to fool about on your own. I'm sure that father will not be pleased to hear that it was you're disobedience which lead to this and endangered your life – and do not think that this ridiculous tale of a Vespari demon will console him any more than it does me."

"His name was Ronaall and he was not a Vespari!"

"Enough!" he hissed, ending the conversation.

Clearly I wasn't going to get anywhere in this discussion, so I pursed my lips and settled for glaring at Gedron's back for entire duration of the trip home.

Mother would believe me.


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