When the young Arielle Amell lay eyes on the book for the first time, she was naturally hesitant. Any book with large, black runes reading "the Book of Forbidden Knowledge" was bound to be trouble. However, trouble was something Arielle was somewhat of a self-taught expert at, so it was no surprise that she snuck the book into the apprentice dorms.
It had to contain something of interest; nobody stashed a book under a false shelf bottom unless it contained secrets, power, something! The only thing that made her hold back was the fear of unleashing something she wasn't capable of handling, especially if she might get her friends and dorm-mates hurt. It was then, late one night as she ran her hands over the gray blue cover, that she felt it move slightly under her touch. A false cover, she realized. Which meant that title "Forbidden Knowledge" was meant to scare off any would-be readers. Most likely it was a personal diary of some kind. Amell smiled wickedly. While she wasn't one to gossip, that didn't mean she didn't take a perverse glee in ferreting out another's deep, dark secrets.
Sneaking off into one of the lesser known corners of the circle, where she'd be left alone for a few hours before she was missed, Arielle cast a simple spell over the cover; one that would allow her to see through the false cover without destroying it. The actual binding of the hardcover book was a soft, faded brown leather. Embossed in fancy gold relief were the runes for "Sister Abby's Book of Boys and Girls". Amell sighed heartily in disappointment. If it was written by a sister, no doubt it would be boring, preachy, dry. Never having been a worshiper in the Chantry, Amell was of half a mind to put the thing back. However, she'd already gone to the effort to set up an alibi and had bribed a Templar with fresh baked cookies to get here; might as well see what the book contained. With a shrug, Amell unlocked the thick gold lock on the side and opened the book.
Thus it was that Arielle Amell uncovered the legendary sex book that was supposed to have been destroyed years ago. Blushing from neck to hairline, 14-year old Amell read deeply into the in-depth explanations on how boy's and girl's differed, both physically and physiologically, and how one could go about pleasing each gender and even multiple of each gender all at once. In about 2 hours, Amell learned the meaning behind every perverted innuendo she'd ever heard, and a goodly number of ones she never would have dreamed of. The volume was vast, filled with lengthy explanations and detailed illustrations. If it hadn't been for the ringing of the dinner bell, signaling the end of her alibi as well as food to be had, Amell would have sat there and continued reading throughout the night. Sighing, she stashed the book in her pack and raced back towards the common area. As she left the lesser known areas, she ran into the Templar she had bribed, a youngster named Cullen, new to the order and the circle. He smiled at her kindly.
"So, how'd the candle trick training go?" He asked casually. Amell started, remembering her lie to get herself past him. A common 'trick' apprentices did to prove their control was to line up 3 candles, and using a single fire spell, light the two ends without lighting the middle. It was tricky and took time to master, though Amell had managed it long ago. However, it had given her the perfect excuse: go someplace where there was nobody or nothing else to set on fire. Giving a lopsided grin, Amell put on her most innocent expression.
"Well, on the bright side, I didn't set anything on fire." She said lamely. Cullen nodded, still smiling.
"And what's the not-bright side?"
"...I didn't set anything on fire." She slumped, looking disappointed. Cullen reached out and ruffled her blonde hair, mussing it.
"Don't worry. From what I've heard, you're quite talented. You'll pick it up in no time and impress your tutors, I'm sure!" He gave her a thumbs up before dismissing her for the evening meal. Amell waved to him, feeling slightly guilty for having to lie to such a nice guy.
Later the next day, Amell managed to sneak off again, not having to lie or sneak around, since apparently none of the Templar were watching that particular area. She'd no sooner sat down and begun reading more, however, when she heard a familiar exclamation as a mage her age stumbled and fell into view.
"By the old gods, Jowen, you couldn't sneak up on the deaf and blind!" She growled as she put the book down and went to help her friend up. "Why're you following me?"
"Well…" Jowen rubbed his elbow to ease the throbbing from where he'd landed on it, "you've been sneaking off and being all secretive lately. I figured you must be learning something you're not supposed to and-"
"And you wanted to find out what it was so you'd have an edge up when our next exam occurs, amiright?" Amell finished for him. Jowen ducked his head. "Go back to the dorms Jowen; with as much noise as you make, you'll give away my hiding place!" Jowen straightened, trying to look intimidating.
"No! Either show me what you've learned, or I'll...I'll…"
"...Or I'll tell Greagoir that it was YOU that put the laxative in the Templar's stew last month!" Jowen said with a hint of steel. Amell gasped, backing up slightly.
At an impasse, Amell growled in frustration, then motioned Jowen to where she'd left the book.
"Fine, but you have to SWEAR never to tell anyone about this, or I'll have your hide!"
"I swear! So, what're you studying? Stonefist? Lightning storm? Whisp call?" He asked eagerly. Amell just grinned.
Over the next few days, rumors were whispered among the apprentices about Amell and Jowen. Some said they were now lovers. Others said they were practicing forbidden magic. One of the apprentices claimed Jowen had mentioned something about a 'book of forbidden knowledge'. While the apprentices were careful not to let these whispers reach the Templars, Cullen still overheard. Feeling responsible for allowing Amell to sneak off and study that which might be forbidden (though he privately felt that her fresh cookies had been well worth it), he snuck his way back to where he knew she liked to hide and practice in secret. There, he saw her sitting against the wall, Jowen snuggled quite close, as they both poured over a large, thick book. He was about to call out, when he saw Jowen blush mightily, glancing at Amell.
"Y-y'know Arie, it really doesn't make much sense…" he gulped, looking nervous, "...just reading it, I mean. I think we should actually give some of these, uh, techniques a try…"
Jowen, in an attempt to be smooth, went to move an arm around her shoulders. Instead, since he wasn't able to make eye contact with her (in fact, he was looking everywhere but at her), he accidentally hit her in the face with his elbow. Amell cried out sharply in pain as Jowen began apologizing profusely. Amell flickered a low-level lightning bolt at Jowen, calling him a dirty pervert, causing him to shriek and move away. Cullen, shaking his head and wondering how they'd managed to go without being overheard this long, moved into sight.
"Alright you two, that's enough. Amell, I'm disappointed in you. I thought you were genuine in your eagerness to learn magic for the good of mankind. To see you sneaking off to read books that clearly you were never meant to have makes me very, very upset. Hand over the book, and we'll just go talk to your lesson's master."
Amell moved to block sight of the book, once more trying to look innocent.
"I-it's not what you think, Cullen." She blushed heavily, ducking her head slightly. It was an endearing move, one that Cullen had not expected from such a headstrong young girl. He thought she looked quite adorable, then quickly shook the feeling off, alarmed at his own thoughts. Jowen took the moment to scramble to his feet, standing next to his friend.
"Y-yes, it's a book on...on...herbology!" Jowen grinned, not convincing. Amell groaned and rolled her eyes before smacking her friend in the arm.
"It's nothing illegal or forbidden, per-say." Amell continued to blush, suddenly having trouble looking at Cullen. Then an idea occurred to her, and she couldn't keep the sly expression from showing slightly. "Though I think we could use an expert opinion; preferably from someone who's older, wiser, and more in-the-know. Why don't you read it with us, Ser Cullen, and you can tell us if it's accurate or forbidden or what-not?"
Cullen could sense her subterfuge, but he was powerless against her fluttering eyelashes. He'd take a quick peek, and if it wasn't something they were supposed to be learning, he'd get the book away. At least that had been the plan. Within a minute, Cullen was bright red and stammering, as Jowen and Amell pointed out various positions and techniques that had them confused. Cullen told himself he should take the book away, but couldn't bring himself to. Technically, it wasn't forbidden, and he found himself curious about more and more of the contents.
So it was that the book ensnared another reader for that evening. At one point, Amell had glanced at a confusing drawing, making a face.
"What is a 'rimjob'? She asked, looking slightly disgusted as she glanced at the drawings. Without thinking, Cullen told her exactly what it was, gaining an amazed look from both mages before he realized what he'd just said. To cover himself, he coughed, taking hold of the book and pulling it from Amell's eager hands.
"Okay, I think that's enough. This is clearly, ah, too adult for you youngsters. I'll just…" He paused, unsure what to do with the book. Amell grinned wickedly.
"Gonna do some private reading of your own, Cullen?" She asked sweetly. The Templar blushed heavily, vehemently denying it. The two mages giggled.
Cullen gave the book to Greagoir, claiming he'd found it in the apprentice dormitories, and Greagoir in turn gave it to Irving, the two rivals sharing in a long forgotten memory as the book passed hands. Amell sighed at the loss when Cullen told her who now had the book. She hadn't finished it and very much wanted to. She was a perfectionist by nature, never showcasing her magical skills until she was sure they were as near perfect as she could get them. She had never experienced sex, but knew she probably would some day, and wanted to know everything she could before the event occurred. The only books on sex had more to do with reproduction and were severely dumbed-down by Chantry censors. That book contained more real knowledge - practical knowledge - on the subject than she was likely to find anywhere in the circle.
After several days of heavy thinking and planning on how to get the book back, Amell finally decided on the one thing that always seemed to work with Irving: honesty. So one morning, as Irving was writing quietly in his office, Amell approached him.
"Ah, young Amell, good to see you. I trust your studies are going well?" Irving spoke slowly, an undertone of kindness and understanding to him. Amell bowed respectfully, answering as she thought she should, before broaching the subject.
"First Enchanter, you know how much I love to study. Whether it has to do with magic or not, having more knowledge of any given subject is always a good thing. At some point, I'm going to need to know certain things, but I can't do that if some measure of trust isn't extended." She began. She had worked up an entire speech, practicing it to herself multiple times to make sure she had it right. To her surprise, Irving held up a hand, forestalling any further arguments. Silently, he stood, walked over to the large, locked chest sitting in the corner of his office, opened it, and pulled out the book. Handing it out to the stunned Amell, he pulled it away slightly as she reached for it.
"If you're found reading it, you will be punished for breaking into my office. Make sure to return it where you found it when you're finished, and above all," he paused, holding her surprised eyes locked with his, "don't tell anyone about it. It's up to each individual person to seek it out."
Handing the book over, Amell blushed, nodding solemnly. Irving turned to go back to his writing as Amell stashed the book in her pack. As she went to leave his office, he stopped her again, half-smiling.
"As a note, you may wish to change the cover. A book of 'Forbidden Knowledge' means different things to different people, and we wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea about what it is you're studying, would we?"