A rusalka appeared to be a beautiful woman, with pale white skin and hair that was an odd hue of green and gold, but red lips. Despite their cold environs, they often wore little more than a gown or shawl of diaphanous cloth, but a number would even go nude. However, Liriel Baenre encountered a warrior rusalka with muscular body and wearing leather armor, with white skin and empty white eyes.
In a form of symbiosis, a rusalka was mystically bonded to a specific body of water or waterway, ranging in size from a pond to a lake or a stream to a river. She could move to a distance of up to 300 yards (275 meters) away from the water's edge, but beyond this point she could no longer breath. She had to hold her breath or immediately begin to drown in air, and could not breathe normally again until she'd re-immersed herself in her home water. However, provided she was immersed in or in contact with her watery home, a rusalka had great skill in hiding and escaping capture. In any water, they were expert swimmers.
Rusalkas were most known for their beguiling song that could lure listeners toward them. A single chosen being within 300 feet (91 meters) of their water who could hear them sing would approach the rusalka by the most direct path, if they could not resist or were not immune to mind-affecting magic. A rusalka had to keep singing to keep up the effect, but could do so either above or beneath the waves. If a beguiled being's route took them through a hazardous, they might be discouraged and had another chance to shake off the beguilement. If they made it to the rusalka's side (5 feet, or 1.5 meters), then they fell under a charm (as with charm monster), and the rusalka could stop singing. If the being ever resisted the beguilement or charm, then they were immune to a rusalka's powers for another day.
Rusalkas did not seek for battle, only lovers or easy victims. When threatened, they invariably fled into the water, relying on their ability to hide and their familiarity with their waterways to avoid those who chased them there. They might carry only a simple dagger.
When luring a victim to their doom with their song, a villainous rusalka might force them to enter or cross a dangerous area, usually deep water or a swift current. They would keep moving, never letting a victim get in arm's reach.
Trapped at their watery homes, rusalkas were often terribly lonely. For company, they regularly used their beguiling songs to lure mortals, usually men, to their water to join them. Wicked rusalkas, and even some who were simply uncaring, would cause their charmed victims drown, while those of good heart would emerge to bestow water breathing on them, letting them join them underwater.
In this way, rusalkas and charmed or willing mortals developed relations, but these were fated to end in tears. Realizing her love could not be content in her watery world, a rusalka eventually broke off the relationship. She freed the mortal from her charm, or withheld the water breathing power, forcing them to leave.
It was commonly believed, even in Rashemen, that rusalkas were the unquiet spirits of drowned maidens, like ghosts, forever bound to haunt the sites of their deaths. Their attacks on swimmers were to be believed to be deliberate, or else the result of the ghost remembering drowning, panicking, and grabbing hold of the living. In truth, however, they were fey beings and natural water spirits.
Living lonely lives, rusalka usually lived singly, and only one could be found dwelling in a given body of water, if at all. However, on occasion, multiple rusalkas would appear in an area and form a covey of three to six members.
Found in cold climes, rusalkas dwelled in the lakes, streams, and rivers they were bound to.
In particular, rusalkas were found in Rashemen, in and around Lake Ashane. They were known to dwell in White Rusalka Vale, near the lake's shore. It was something of a dead-magic zone to all but Rashemi Witches. One also appeared in a hot spring near Dernovia.
In Rashemen in the Year of Maidens, 1361 DR, in the spring near Dernovia, Liriel Baenre had an encounter with a rusalka. She estimated her to be the ghost of a warrior who'd died whilst encountering, perhaps robbing, the dragon-like guardian spirit of the spring. The rusalka attacked Liriel and tried to drag her into the pool, but the dragon spirit swallowed the rusalka.
In the Year of the Bent Blade, 1376 DR, a felucca carrying Bastun, Faena, Duras, and other warriors across Lake Ashane was attacked by rusalkas. They sang part of the Firedawn Cycle to lull and beguile the crew, luring them into the water. When the alarm was raised, they tried to drag their victims overboard. The Rashemi fought them off, and afterward feared the spirits had risen against the exiled vremyonni, Bastun.
The rusalka is based on the rusalka of Slavic mythology. They first appeared in Dungeons & Dragons and the Forgotten Realms in Elaine Cunningham's novel Windwalker in 2003, before being re-introduced in the sourcebook Frostburn in 2004.
There has been some contradiction in the sources over whether rusalkas are undead ghosts or living fey. The rusalka of Slavic mythology appears to have begun as a nature spirit before being described as the spirit of a dead woman. Windwalker calls them water spirits and only speculates they are ghosts, but strongly depicts one as an undead being. Frostburn however specifically contradicts this, making them fey. The Shield of Weeping Ghosts (2008) followed suit, basing its version on the sourcebook.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 W. Baur, J. Jacobs, G. Strayton (September 2004). Frostburn. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 150–151. ISBN 0-7869-2896-4.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 James P. Davis (2008). The Shield of Weeping Ghosts. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 13–18. ISBN 978-0-7869-4877-2.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Elaine Cunningham (April 2004). Windwalker (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 298–300. ISBN 0-7869-3184-1.
- ↑ Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (July 2003). Player's Handbook v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 300. ISBN 0-7869-2886-7.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Elaine Cunningham (April 2004). Windwalker (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 249–250. ISBN 0-7869-3184-1.