22 October 2012, 11:03


Walking towards the medieval city, there were many pilgrims. Amongst these pilgrims, wearing sackcloth, were a father and his daughter, Matos and Lehen. After months of walking across the countryside they were relieved to see the castle and the River of Rylaan at long last.

They approached a wooden medieval barge ferrying people across the River of Rylaan. To Matos’s surprise the clerical authorities were unwelcoming and only wanted their thithe (a single metal coin) and their details.

Lehen was terrified and whimpered, and Matos found it hard to comfort her, but Erik, a fellow pilgrim, from the Norse party on the barge with them, regaled her with tales from his land, and she soon forgot her fear and enjoyed the man’s storytelling. She settled down, and waited as the ferry crossed the very wide river. They were told it would take them about six turns of the large hourglass, a quarter of the day, to get across the river.

Presently the monks gave the hungry and thirsty pilgrims a broth, but Lehen did not like the look of the food so she pretended to eat it under the watchful eye of the monks, but Erik wolfed his down and asked for more. The monks merely turned their backs on him, so Erik looked around and saw Lehen’s untouched bowl. Ensuring that she did not want it, he grabbed it before she had a chance to warn him, and started eating it. He suddenly turned blue and started choking. The monks ran up to him and whispered amongst themselves. One monk turned to Lehen and addressed her roughly, “Did you not eat your broth?” Before Lehen had a chance to reply, Erik gave the death rattle and expired. The monks forgot about her and looked at the corpse, before removing it from the decks, taking it below.

The monk who addressed Lehen returned to her and apologised for his abrupt manner, and spoke with Matos for a while, clearing the air. Somewhat mollified, Matos accepted a little metal figurine on behalf of Lehen, offered by the monk, Friar Kuct, as a peace offering. The monk bowed at the pair of them before returning belowdecks. Lehen took one look at the metal figurine and blanched. She could not explain why but she just did not like it, nor did she want it. Lehen wanted him to throw it away, but he did not heed her warning. Matos put it in his pocket.

Suddenly, the clerical authorities stopped the barge in the middle of the boat and told Matos and Lehen they would have to change boats, as the other boat will bring them directly to the castle, since the barge they were on were not going to the castle after all, but to the small hamlet at the other side a way up past the castle. Matos objected but he had already paid his tithe so he could hardly object, being in the middle of the river. Matos realised he and his little daughter were trapped and had little choice but to comply.

The monks pulled out a wooden plank, but it was constructed like a corridor, with wicker basketwork forming what appeared to be loosely woven walls and ceiling, but loose enough to clearly see expressions of trepidation on the part of the girl and anticipation on the part of the father, leading out from the barge over the river towards the other barge.

Unbeknownst to the hapless pilgrims, the plank was on a hinge, so they were unceremoniously tossed into the river, as the other barge was just a little bit too far away for the plank to reach it.

Swallowing a bit of the river, Matos and Lehen gasped and floated helplessly in the very wide river, trapped in the strong current, until a row boat came along and the boatman rescued them. Indignant, Matos berated the people of the first barge, only to be told by the boatman that their experience was a test.

Matos wasn’t impressed, but Lehen was struck by the term “The guilty sank while the innocent floated.” Being a child, she blurted her opinion, that she heard it was the opposite, and that it was only because they lived beside a lake at home, and regularly went swimming that the water held no fears for them.

The boatman smiled genially at her, then hoisted up a flag, with the symbol of Rylaan. At once, cheers were heard from the barge, then Friar Kuct sounded a horn three times.

“You have passed the test! You are worthy of Rylaan!”

The rowboat brought them to the castle at the curve of the river. Getting off onto the specially constructed pier, they were welcomed by a special greeting party, chanting “Rylaan, Rylaan!”

The smells, the noises and the sight of the frenzied crowd chanting the name repeatedly, scared the little girl, who clung to her father tightly, hugging his arm with a look of terror on her face. He held on to her comfortingly as he was of the mindset that Rylaan was part of the pilgrimage so there shouldn’t be anything to worry about, then, as he reminded her. “I don’t like it, Father! Don’t leave me!”

Later on, in their private antechamber in the castle, they were given the same broth that the people ate on the barge. While Matos tucked in with relish, being a man with a big appetite, Lehen refused to eat anything, preferring to eat only her bread. While they were both chewing, monks looked in on them and satisfied they were both eating, they left them. Sitting down, Matos took out the little metal figurine that was jabbing at him in his pocket, and placed it on the floor beside him.

Matos looked at the bowl his daughter refused to touch, and queried her not eating this nourishing broth. (She took after her father in this respect, hence his concern at her loss of appetite.) She told him she did not want it, preferring to eat the last of the bread Mother baked. Smiling at her indulgently, he agreed to let her eat what she wanted.

Suddenly Matos started choking, and there was little Lehen could do, as she was only a child, except wail “Father! Father!” as he slowly died, like Erik did on the barge.

Suddenly, mystified, Lehen watched while her father’s corpse shrank, getting smaller and smaller until it became the same size as the figurine, and the appearance changed to that of the figurine, and turned into metal!

Lehen realised that the two figurines were both Erik and her father! She screamed and a novice nun came in, realised what happened, and helped Lehen carry the two figurines in her little purse, and the underground resistance movement helped return Lehen to her horrified mother.


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