CHAPTER ONE : A Paradise
[ Characters: F.Warden ("Lunette Surana") | OC Templar ("Jacob") ]
_____Cullen settled down beside her, running his fingers through his short hair in that adorable unsure way of his. His mouth worked, forming words that were whipped away in an unfelt wind. She smiled, leaning towards him - enthralled in the message that couldn't escape his lips. She basked in this; his attention on her unabashed, the warmth of the sunlight on her skin, the stiff carpet of grass that pillowed her seat, the quiet, the peace, and the heavenly solitude.
She had been here countless times. This was her own private hide-away, a place where nobody could enter except those she had invited - which she rarely did. There had been a time when this meadow had been a raucous place, filled with the laughter and songs of children. She didn't think back on those days much. Not anymore.
Her sanctuary wasn't very large; less than a hundred paces from one side to the other. They sat on the crest of a gentle hill near the center of it. Bordered on three sides by thick forest, a mass of dark green leaves and needles that grew too thick to pass through, it was impossible to intrude on this place. The edge of the boundary was fringed with knee high grass, peppered with elfroot that filled the clearing with its spicy fresh sent when stirred by the breeze. The fourth side touched a crystal-clear lake that glittered in the sunlight like a bowl full of sapphires and glass. The beach sloped slowly into the water, tinged a pale orange color from the clay rich sand and littered with small smooth rocks. Their horses, two identical brown beasts that ambled about lazily in the shallows, carried picnic supplies in the packs attached to their saddles.
She knew this place intimately. It was more her home than anywhere she had truly lived.
Though, of course, it wasn't real.
She tangled her fingers into the grass beneath her hands, itching to do the same to his hair as Cullen turned to watch the horses, a smile twisting his lips and an earnest blush warming his cheeks. But he was just a phantom; a figment of rampant imagination and lucid dreaming within the fade. Like the horses that splashed lazily in the still water, he wouldn't have any substance to him if she tried to touch him. Because Cullen had rarely said more than twelve sentences to her in an entire week, his image in her dreams couldn’t speak and likewise she’d never touched a man or horse so both were specters to her hand.
She could conjure substantial imaginings, of things she hadn't actually experienced, when she slept but she always woke from such dreams exhausted and plagued by a headache that would last for days. Thus, she'd learned to settle for these partial companions - only as real as a painting.
His costume was similar to what he'd worn the day he'd arrived at the tower; a plain cotton tunic, dark brown trousers that hugged his legs, and well worn, sturdy boots. Knight-Commander Greagoir said you could tell a lot about a man based on how he cared for his boots. His were plain, stout leather - nothing fancy, but well cared for and clean. He still wore those boots sometimes, when he wasn't on duty. He was younger than most of the other Templars serving at the Ferelden Circle. She was pretty sure he was eighteen, though she hadn't gathered the courage to ask for certain. She had been speaking with him though. It had been First Enchanter Irving's suggestion...
Well. That was stretching the truth a bit. First Enchanter Irving had told her to think of the Templars as people, and learn who they were. He had, of course, meant it as an exercise to expel her fear of them and prepare her for a lifetime of circle politics - not an invitation to grow nearly obsessed with infatuation over one of them.
It had begun innocently enough, with Irving challenging her to learn each of their names. Knight Commander Greagoir was easy. Everyone knew him. Then there were Phillip, Jacob, Bran and Devin who had rotating shifts standing at the entrance of the tower. New recruits often got stuck with that post, since it was the most boring. It was where she’d met Cullen, though he hadn’t been stuck with that post long. Bran had come only months after him. Philip and Jacob were both lay-abouts that volunteered for the post, and found her annoying. They ignored her for the most part when she approached them. The other templars found Devin annoying so he kept getting rotated back to the duty, and though he was friendly his stories were tiringly boastful and he did complain quite a bit. Bran seemed to appreciate her visits, as Cullen had, and she made a point of spending at least a few minutes with him when he got stuck with the post, though he was dismissive of her questions about himself or the world beyond the giant door he adorned.
Cullen, on the other hand, had been engaging and warm. Ignorant of the gossip of her peers, he had been respectful and kind to her, indulging her questions and smiling brilliantly when she spoke his name. She still returned her greeting if they passed each other in the halls, though she craved more.
She sighed and reclined back in the grass, looking up to the clear blue sky. This was an exercise in stupidity. Irving had suspected that she had feelings for Cullen and warned her that nothing could come of it. His warning had been bleak and indisputable, and it made her heart sick even now to think of it. She’d assured him that she had only been exploiting his newness to build a repertoire, arguing that the best route to maintaining mage rights was to do as he had with Greagoir and build a respectful working relationship with the Templars.
She fisted her hands furiously.
Why couldn’t she just stop this nonsense? What was the point of torturing herself with fantasies of things that could never happen?
She turned her head to study his profile, and bit her lip.
Because she was lonely. She was constantly surrounded by other people. There wasn’t a shred of privacy in the tower. They weren’t even allowed to have locks on the trunks where they kept their possessions. They ate communally, slept communally, studied in groups, prayed in groups, shared a single dressing and washing room for each gender. Even if you sat alone in the corner of the library you were watched by the templars. You couldn’t have a single unguarded or earnest moment with another person. You could never be too vulnerable, never too close.
Each of them was a person shipwrecked at sea, desperately clinging to a piece of driftwood. They bumped against each other in the surf and some clung to each other – only to be torn apart by brutal politics or without any explanation at all.
And still she ached to reach out to someone. To cling to another.
He turned to her, laughing, his brown eyes twinkling. She could hear that even here. She was pretty sure he was the first Templar she’d ever heard laugh while he’d known she was in the room. It was a good laugh, earnest. She smiled and he leaned down towards her. She felt her breath catch in her throat even though she knew this wasn’t real -
A gauntleted had shook her shoulder and the image in front of her faded like an image viewed in the reflection of a steam-covered mirror. She heard a voice. Not the right one, not his…
Was that Jacob?
“Lunette, rise. The First Enchanter has summoned you.”