The sky was darkening. The sun was lowering. Leaves lay silent, and ferns frowned in the air that trembled to stillness. Where there were once pregnant storm clouds, there was an empty graying blue. Another night approached slowly, set to court the unseen crescent moon.
The Slough River fed gently on the waters of Beaver Lake. It was a large lake, belted with a thick chain of islands. The water had calmed, and become placid. Now, it was a pristine reflection of the sky above, save for the ripples of twin canoes that paddled along the northern shoreline.
In the bow of the canoe, a brown haired young woman was paddling at a relaxed pace. Behind her, in the stern, a diminutive man was trying to piece together a ballad he was writing in his mind. He'd sing the same line again, and experiment with variations. And every so often, the man would venture some lyrics, never quite sure of it.
She interrupted him, eyeing the other canoe ahead of them. "Qurrdamnit, why do I have to paddle with you?"
The eunuch laughed, then put an edge of sarcasm into his voice, "Because I lust for you, Marlew. Because I want to take you hard and fast upon the rocky shore, when we hit the first portage."
"I'd make a better sternsman," Marlew retorted. "By the Under, that old hag in the bow of your cousin's boat would make a better sternsman. You can hardly steer, and the weight isn't balanced!"
In the distance, she noticed the grays and ripples of a loon chick swimming alone. And then, a speckled parent rose from a dive, fish in beak.
"Hey, you weren't complaining earlier when you had a clear view of his naked back, stroke after stroke."
"Which I can't see now," she said, thinking, Even with my Qurr-granted vision. They both knew that the adonis and the banshee had paddled around the next corner in the shore, and were probably too far away to be seen clearly in the gathering mist.
"Look, we agreed to bring you along as a guide. If you try that nerve induction magic on any of us again, I swear, I'll find a way to get back at you. You can only make me writhe in pain for so long."
"Oh?" she answered, grinning wistfully. "Who said I can induce pain?"
"You may use your talents as vices, but that's just thunder witching. You focus your awareness upon the flesh, find the nerves, and have your way with them. Though if you wanted to, I bet you could shock the fish right out of the water around us."
Marlew laughed, trying to paddle a bit faster without tiring herself, "Perhaps, Eliash." A pause, "Perhaps you know a lot about magic for one without much."
"Presumption unplums the poet," Eliash recited.
"You do realize the irony of you using that old adage, right?"
"Of course," the bard grinned, as he turned the canoe parallel to the shoreline, "'Tis my favourite."
Marlew giggled, and her paddle splashed by accident. Then she asked, "Was it my presumption to assume you are arcanely ungifted? Or, would it have been your presumption in reference to having sung so much about something for which one lacks the lore?"
The eunuch guffawed.
"And how can you sing of love, when you know not the act?"
Eliash grinned to himself, "Do I have to repeat the adage for you? Besides, love is more than just an act. But I wouldn't expect you to grasp that concept."
And she drew herself up, shifting upon the bench. Simpering, she praised him. "You should continue with that song you were humming. It's maturing well."
"Thanks," Eliash said. "Y'know, you aren't such a terrible paddling partner." Then he felt the need to add, "Though that doesn't mean I want to have you upon the rocky shore."
"No," Marlew mused. "Of course not."
Clearing his throat, he began to sing. But just as they were beginning to enjoy each other's company, the boat hit something. It sounded like a rock, scraping against wood.
But then, in the bow, Marlew felt it give way. She stopped paddling and looked into the water.
Upon a clump of rocks in the pebbly sand, were three white eggs. However, the boat had cracked the edge of one. And then, she saw scintillating scales move sleekly through the water. Then, the prostitute drew herself into a panic.
Paddling the canoe a bit further away from shore, Eliash stopped singing. Then, he noticed her distress, "What is it?"
Twisting her back to look behind herself, Marlew's face was wrought with nervous surprise. She spoke hesitantly, "Lake leviathans!"
That was when they heard the screams and yells from down the shore. And suddenly, a silver-clad serpent rose from the water and hissed water at them from its draconian snout.
Eliash leaned forward in the boat, a serious look on his face, and grabbed a crossbow.
And in the front, static crackled between beautiful hands. A wild fury was etched upon Marlew's face, as the two jumped out of the canoe and slipped into the shallow water.
The serpent dove forward, and splashed into the water before them.
Beaver Lake was no longer so calm.