Chapter 6 - The rescue

Rhiannon closed her eyes and held in her breath. This was much better than walking. Of course, her father would have had her hide if she attempted to borrow a horse. She wasn't even given a proper riding lesson. However, the stable boy was kind to her and so was Alfred. He used to let her ride in secret.

Their group made their way towards the grassy fields. Rhiannon felt the cool wind on her face. Why not enjoy the moment while it lasted. She thought.

"I haven't seen you around, why is it so?" Matthew asked Rhiannon startling her.

She didn't realize when he arrived right next to her.

"I...I don't like socializing much, your grace, I like being indoors on my own, usually," she lied.

"Oh! So you are a homebody, what do you like to do?"

Rhiannon looked around trying to think of an answer, " I like to read, your grace, help in cooking, sometimes I help in the dairy."

She had no idea why was the prince even talking to her. Maybe he was just being polite.

"Your Grace, there is a lovely lake some distance away, would you like to visit it?"

Margaret interrupted before Matthew could ask anything further.

"Yeah sure, we are out for a ride after all," he replied.

Rhiannon sighed with relief, she knew she was going to be in trouble for going out riding with the prince. Her stepmom would whip her if she came to know she was talking to the prince.

They rode in silence and soon arrived at the lake. The lake was ringed with trees and outcroppings of rock sloped into the cool waters. The other side of the lake was surrounded by the forest. Their guards took the horses while Alfred, Margaret, Matthew and Rhiannon strolled around the lake.

It was a lovely sunny day and the gentle breeze made it more pleasant.

Margaret chatted away with the prince while Rhiannon and Alfred followed behind. Rhiannon had no idea that a pair of ice grey eyes were observing her from the thick wilderness.

Vasilios had followed her scent and reached the lake, she was in the company of people so he stayed in the bushes peeking at her. His wolf growled in anger when she conversed with the well-dressed man. He didn't like the way he looked at her.

"This looks quite deep," Matthew commented while looking at the boats floating in the middle of the lakes.

"Yes, your grace, would you like to go boating?" Margaret asked, eager to please the prince.

Matthew glanced at Rhiannon, "would you like to go boating, my lady?"

"Me?" Rhiannon gasped, her eyes widened.

"Whatever you command, your grace," she replied uneasily because Margaret was glaring at her.

"I will arrange for the boat," Alfred grinned at the prospect of an impromptu picnic.

The boat was arranged immediately, as the boatmen were eager to please the crown prince. Alfred leads them to a waiting boat.

It was a pretty big boat, more like a barge - broad enough to accommodate standing. There were boatmen on either end to row them.

Rhiannon stood on the deck watching the water splashing against the boat as they were rowed out into the lake. She had remained aloof all this while, except taking Matthew's hand when he offered it to help her climb the wooden steps. It would have been rude to refuse the prince.

"Oh! the boat is so wobbly," Margaret commented, leaning on Matthew.

Rhiannon suppressed her smile and turned away. Margaret was trying too hard. There was just enough of a breeze to make them slightly imbalanced. Rhiannon was holding the low rail standing next to Margret who was standing next to Matthew.

Besides them, Alfred and two guards were making the boat pretty cramped up.

Margaret's continued shifting didnt help much. Rhiannon shifted away trying to move away from Margaret and the prince.

The jerky momentum had her reaching dramatically over one side until balance could no longer be preserved and she fell right over the edge, somehow on her back, with a very loud splash.

And before Rhiannon knew it, the water was rapidly rising above her head. The density of her dress and garments had her sinking at once, and she already knew that they were bound far too tightly to be able to loosen quickly enough with her fingers.

She heard distant shouts before Rhiannon lost consciousness.

Vasilios watched flabbergasted, as she sank into the embrace of the lake. Then panic set in, and along with it a newfound sense of urgency. She couldn't be lost - an inner voice told him that he would lose something precious - without giving a second thought he jumped into the lake in his wolf form swimming towards her.

He shifted into human form once underwater and swam rapidly towards her. He was faster than average men and reached her in no time.

One of the guards jumped after Rhiannon to rescue her but he bobbed up soon breaking the surface.

"Your Grace, I can't find her." Said the guard.

Matthew and Alfred looked horrified.

"Your grace, we must go back to the bank. I can send a search party later. It's dangerous to be here," the other guard said.

"Oh no! my poor sister, I hope we find her in time," Margaret cried.

"If you had stayed still and not wobbled around unnecessarily, this would not have happened," Alfred snapped at her.

"Are you blaming me? I would never do such a thing to Rhiannon," Margret squeezed some tears in her eyes, to look more convincing.

"Do not fret my lady, we'll find her," Matthew replied. He had a worried look on his face.

Vasilios pulled the unconscious body of his mate from the water. Water dripped from his hair, trailing down to his nude body as he carried her into the bushes.

She was still breathing.

He put her down and pressed her chest, to push out the water. She spluttered and coughed.

Rhiannon felt something cool licking her face. There was a sharp gasping noise, and suddenly she half-sat coughing and choking out the unwelcome contents of her lungs.

"I'm sorry - " she started unevenly, and broke off into more miserable coughing "my fault - "

Ice grey eyes stared at her. The wolf's face was so near it could crush her skull in one bite. She froze, but the grey wolf and those eyes were familiar. Surprisingly, she wasn't afraid. The wolf was dripping wet. Its beautiful fur stuck around in clumps. Rhiannon stared into its icy grey eyes,

"Hello you are the same one, isn't it? My friend wolf?"

The wolf just looked at her with those doleful eyes.

She reached for it and stroked its silky fur. The wolf closed its eyes for a minute as if enjoying her touch.

Her skull throbbed as though it'd been worked on as drums.

"Am I dreaming?" She thought, " how did I reach here? Did you rescue me?"

The wolf simply wagged its tail.

"Rhiannon!" Alfred's voice broke through the foliage.

The wolf jerked and stood up straight, it looked towards the approaching sound and footsteps, it turned towards Rhiannon again then ran into the forest. Rhiannon watched it disappear into the woods, she had never been as puzzled in her entire life. She could have sworn she had felt strong muscles pulling and carrying her through the water.

She remembered a blurry face bent over her with concern but when she opened her eyes, there was this grey wolf. Rhiannon couldn't understand what to make of it.

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