|bethen avilla ; the circle mage (bethe) wrote in thedas,|
@ 2009-12-15 18:28:00
|Entry tags:||! narrative, & 9:45 (4) eluviesta, & before 9:45, @ bethen avilla|
Who: Bethen Avilla; guest starring some Templars, Senior Enchanter Sweeney, and the late First Enchanter Irving (NPCs).
Where: The shores of Lake Calenhad, and inside the Circle Tower of Kinloch Hold.
When: The first two scenes are in 9:28, the third in 9:43, and last in present day.
Summary: Excerpts from the life of a Circle Mage. Her arrival (told from the view of a Templar), her discovery of a favorite book, her second greatest disappointment, and her departure.
Rating: K...or G...or whatever. There isn't even any cursing. :[
|"I've never seen a lake before." |
Arthur was startled by the soft voice at his side, having almost forgotten that his current ward could even speak, at all. Not that Templars usually conversed with mages, or so Corrin had told him. His partner was the senior between them, though he was not too much older than himself, and still had the arrogance of youth. He'd done this before, three times, even; he knew what he was talking about. On their entire trip to Lothering, Corrin wouldn't stop saying so, and Arthur was more than certain some of these wild tales of tracking down apostate children had been...embellished.
Still, the little girl was absolutely silent ever since they'd left her family behind in the southern town, and he hadn't expected her to start talking now, when they were moments away from parting company for good. Had she not eventually given in to making verbal responses to simple questions instead of nodding or shaking her head, they would've thought her a mute. Six words was the longest sentence to ever come from her mouth. He cleared his throat, unsure of what to say at first, if anything, at all. Silence hung thickly in the air, and he swore he'd never felt more awkward in his life. Finally, Arthur replied in a low voice, "It is quite pretty, isn't it?"
"Can you swim?" he asked, more to break the silence than anything else, though he was pretty sure he already knew the answer, having not seen very many large swimming holes to practice in when they'd gotten to the town.
"Well, I won't let you drown, then," Arthur replied, without thinking about it too much. Glancing down, there was a faint smile on her thin lips. For the first time in the week and half they'd been on the road, the mageling wasn't sobbing her eyes out and stifling her sniffles with a dirty sleeve. She was pale, tired; it took forever for her to fall asleep when they set up camp and she curled underneath her blanket to continue crying. He could hear it, even when she tried to muffle the sounds, and it kept him awake even when it wasn't his turn for the watch. Arthur almost smiled back, and his eyes certainly softened, but his mouth barely twitched.
She reached up for his hand, and knowing that his partner wasn't paying attention, he took it. Her small, delicate fingers were easily swallowed up by the steel gauntlet that covered his own and kept him from feeling her touch. But had he been able to feel how cold her skin was, he was sure his heart would've sunk even further into his stomach. He thought of his youngest sister, whose eyes weren't quite as startlingly blue, but she braided her hair in two pigtails the same way this girl did. One of Mellie's favorite ribbons was in his pack now, something she had given him before he had left home and gone to the Chantry. He imagined some strange man knocking on his parents' door and threatening them until they surrendered their daughter. He didn't like it.
Where was the glory in taking a small, innocent child away from her family? He'd grown up thinking a Templar did the work of a hero, hunting down evil and stopping it in its tracks. But from what he'd been told, there was nothing particularly evil about this girl. Not yet, at least, they'd argued -- who was to say she wouldn't have later learned to use that magic to set a plague on the village and cause the crops to fail, instead of healing sick birds and setting them free? Rationalization certainly helped reduce his guilt, but it didn't absolve him of all regrets, the second thoughts he wasn't supposed to be having. But he'd taken his Vows and meant them. He would just have to live through it, and Maker forgive him for harboring doubts.
Arthur was shaken from his thoughts by the rattling of plate shifting against plate as Corrin turned around. "Boat's coming!" he hollered from the end of the pier, and the Templar immediately released the girl's hand like he'd just picked up a piece of coal from the hearth. The other man didn't seem to notice the shame that spread across his face, but it was hard to read his expression from where they waited on the hill. The girl, however, shrank even further into her cloak, eyes cast to the dirt. He wasn't sure what was worse; the guilt he felt over questioning the strict code of his duty, or ruining the last chance he had to prove to the girl that he was still human.
The only book they had in the house was the battered copy of the Chant of Light that sat on top of her mother's armoire, and even then, it was only the one Canticle. But here, there were so many books she had never heard of, so many pages yet to be turned, so many words to be learned and absorbed. She ran her fingers down the leather spines, stared at the multitude of colors like the covers were rare gems. If she were the Maker (and the Revered Mother would not have approved of such a blasphemous thought) and she were to return to make paradise, her version would look much like this great room, where the shelves reached for the high ceilings and contained an endless supply of knowledge.
And this was just the collection on the first floor. Bethen was told that there were even more tomes on the upper levels, though access to those volumes were restricted for use by the mages only, or at least out of her reach unless she was given express permission from an instructor. But, First Enchanter Irving reassured her, some day she would earn the right to see them for herself. Obviously, Beth, like any eager child given a promise of a gift, would've rather it be sooner than later, but she could wait.
"Child, what are you doing?"
The voice, cracking with age, startled her, and she immediately dropped her hand to clasp the other behind her back. Spinning around, she found one of the senior enchanters (a status she'd only determined by his robes, as she hadn't been introduced) squinting down at her, grimace set on his wrinkled face. She hadn't done anything wrong, had she? Bethen managed to stammer out an answer, "I...um, just looking at the, er, books."
"I see." She didn't like the way he said that, as if there was suspicion in his words. She wanted to protest any conclusions he might have drawn, tell him that she didn't have any ill intent to harm the books or read something she wasn't supposed to read. But her mouth was dry and her mind was blank. It was like the first time she'd been scolded by the Revered Mother at the Chantry for rough-housing with her brother just past the front wall. The older mage said nothing for another long minute, still narrowing his eyes at her. "Hmm. You're one of the new apprentices, aren't you?"
"Y-yes, ser." Beth could hardly manage to meet his judging stare, looking instead straight ahead at the swirling pattern embroidered into the fabric of his scarlet robes.
"Are you looking for something in particular?"
"No?" She winced; that hadn't meant to be a question in response to a question. She tried to correct herself, but found her words quickly becoming a ramble, "I mean...um. No, I just, I like to read. Learn. There are so many books here. I don't even know where to start." Her face felt warm. She was surely bright pink at this point.
"Ah. Well, this is a library, isn't it?" he said, although there was a bit of lightness in his tone. For only a second, she dared to look up, and relaxed when she saw the slight smirk on his face. The mage caught her peeking up at him, but instead of continuing, he turned quickly on his heel and walked over to a bookshelf at the end of the row. Bethen remained statuesque, uncertain of whether or not she'd actually been dismissed. It took him little time to dip his hand into the cluster of books and pull one out with ease, before striding back over and holding it out to her. "Here. You may want to begin with this. It's a personal favorite."
"T-thank you, Senior Enchanter," Beth choked out, gingerly taking the moderately sized tome in both hands. It was denser and heavier than it looked, and she nearly dropped it as he let go.
"Sweeney. Do be sure to bring it back when you're finished. I've had too many students forget it in their trunks up through their Harrowing and had to have a Tranquil track it down for me. It's such a hassle. Run along, now." He shooed her away; she bowed her head in gratitude, and scurried out the stone archway.
When she climbed into her bunk that evening, she laid the book out on her lap and traced her index finger over the embossed letters: In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of A Chantry Scholar.
"I'm sorry, but the answer is still no."
"But Irv--" She stopped herself from sounding rudely informal, even though she thought of him much like family and he made it all too easy to occasionally forget her place. Pause, breathe, regather your thoughts, Beth. She bit her lower lip, then exhaled, "First Enchanter, I thought my proposal was sound. I don't understand."
"Bethen, we just cannot afford to send what few magi Ferelden has left elsewhere, even for study. While I encourage your enthusiasm for learning, your place is here, with us."
"But you can always call me back, can't you? Cumberland isn't so far. You know I would leave as soon as you asked."
"That has nothing to do with it. Now just isn't the best time. We need people like you at our Circle, to demonstrate the appropriate attitude the apprentices should possess. You are a good role model, Bethen, and you have a lot to offer to the children. I imagine you'll make an excellent instructor some day."
"That isn't fair, though." She was starting to whine like a petulant child, but didn't care; his reasons for her to stay sounded hollow, forced, and to her, every bit as selfish as the ones she had to go. Could he really not stand to let her be happy in Nevarra, even for a few weeks? "I'm not even an Enchanter, and I know everyone thinks I'm too young to have an apprentice of my own. It's only been two months since my--"
"Life is not fair, but we do what we must, regardless." The sudden edge in his voice caught her off guard, as did the deepening of the wrinkles in his brow and the corners of his mouth. "This is not about you. This is about more important things than personal desires. I need people here that I can rely on, to look after things, and make sure they stay in order."
The floor suddenly felt like it had fallen out from under her as the meaning of his words sank in. He had been old when she'd met him, and now he was even older, but she had never thought it possible that he could actually... She froze, hoping that the one time she picked up on someone's subtleties, her interpretation was absolutely wrong.
"First Enchanter...what are you saying? Are you...are you not well?"
"What I am saying," he paused, his expression softening once more. He looked suddenly frail, his face more gaunt underneath that bushy white beard than she'd cared to notice before, "is that you will be needed here, more than anywhere else in the world, in the coming months. That is why I cannot approve your request. I am sorry."
"It is quite pretty, isn't it?" Bethen mused aloud to no one in particular, as they waited for the boat to appear through the light fog that had settled in over the Lake, in the direction of the docks at shore. One of the other mages had picked up a bunch of smooth stones and was trying to skip them across the surface, though most of them simply sank with a dull splash. He shrugged sheepishly, muttering something about being out of practice to his friend. But now they were about to go out in the world, out to fight the Blight. There were bound to be more places to practice on the long road to Amaranthine.
Besides the two regulars standing guard at the heavy doors, one of the Templars was watching for the ferryman at the end of the pier, and another one only a few steps to her left. She glanced over to him, at the way the sunlight bounced off the ripples in the water and played on his polished armor. The young man said nothing, though she was certain he'd heard her, looking straight ahead and remaining just as stoic as a soldier in his uniform should be. The scenario felt strangely familiar.
"Funny," she said quietly, shifting the stuffed, hefty pack on her back with unease, "I still don't know how to swim."