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The Ties That Bind Us

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When Maiara awoke from her Harrowing, she knew well why none spoke of its trials. For there were no explanations to be given. Nothing could be trusted in the Fade, that was the true test. She chastised her own kindness and willingness to aid others in her mind when she pulled her shawl further around her as she sat up in her bunk. She had been foolish and had nearly lost everything. But she had succeeded. Wynne wouldn’t want her to dwell… not now, not today, not ever. We mustn’t dwell on our mistakes. She jammed her fingers into her thick hair, combing the so-dark-brown-it-was-almost-black mane back from her face. It never ceased to amaze her, the things young women will covet… her hair being one of them. It reached her hips and was ever a source of annoyance for her but nary a day went by where she didn’t hear oh I wish I had your hair! If only they knew how unruly it could be.

 

“You’re finally awake…” Cullen murmured from his station at the door. The wee hours of the morning still saw the bulk of the tower’s residents asleep, still he did not dare enter. His honey colored eyes peered into the near darkness, barely making out her not-too-slender form as she sat on the edge of her bed. The wool shawl slipping from one of her shoulders to reveal a slash of tawny skin, dark even from here for the contrast of the white strap of her linen shift. He cut his eyes down to the floor instantly.

 

Maiara glanced up with a bit of a start, deep mahogany eyes going wide for the unexpected disturbance to the near silence around them. Cullen… the name whispered through her mind as if on a breeze… a breeze down from the mountain, as likely to bring relief as it was to bring the chill of death. She tucked her feet into her slippers, pulling the shawl back around her as she rose and silently made way to the door, but not too near… just near enough. “Yes.” Some of that aforementioned unruly hair slid back in place, flopping over upon her brow in an odd arc.

 

Cullen saw her feet before he knew she had risen, he straightened, his spine going rigid inside of his armor. He caught those dark eyes of hers as she came to stand not a foot from him… never more closer than that though he longed for it. A sin upon him, these thoughts of his. “I am pleased.” He whispered quieter still, his hand tightening on the hilt of his sword for no reason other than to stave off the urge to reach for her. “I.. I.. simply wished to ask after you.”

 

Maiara studied his features, as she always did. For two years now… always watching… she knew every inch of his face, could tell him by mere stance alone. His stutter always had her heart mimicking his halting words. “Thank you… Ser Cullen. That was… very kind of you.” Her own hold on the thick wool of her shawl tightened, forcing her hands to remain in her own space rather than reach for the fresh shaved look of his cheek, to satisfy the urge to test and see if it was as smooth as it appeared.

 

Cullen felt the blush starting to spread up the sides of his neck so he simply nodded in return yet his feet would not move… he just… stood there, staring at her. Her eyes stole him every time, they were so dark, they seemed to swallow him up as if he were diving down into them. In those eyes, nothing else mattered and everything disappeared. The way she looked at him, he wasn’t a Templar… he was not just Cullen Rutherford from a small town in Ferelden. He was somehow more.

 

Maiara felt as though she had been slipping under some sort of spell, the way he was looking at her. The world simply vanished, everything around them fell away. Thus was the way of things with this Templar, he could still her with a single look… the way he was looking at her in this moment. Her breathing would slow and her heart would speed up… she would hear the blood rushing in her ears. It was as if the world conspired against them to create these moments…

 

Jowan was keeping his path to the wall as he made his way towards Maiara’s dormitory, there was a pressing matter he had to speak with her about before the rest of the tower was fully awake. Especially since she was now a fully fledged Mage, recently harrowed. His steps started to slow as he saw the Templar standing there at the door… and Maiara there too. She was staring up into his eyes and oh, gross. Jowan felt like making an exaggerated gagging sound but truthfully, he had no room to judge. Thus was exactly why he just knew she would help him… not only was she his (only) true friend, but she would sympathize with his plight. He drew near enough so he could discretely clear his throat. “Ahem.

 

Cullen blinked rapidly, breaking the seemingly supernatural connection, realizing with a certain amount of horror that he had started leaning towards her, his head starting to dip downward. He snapped back upright and looked to the other mage, for once… grateful beyond measure that it was the suspected blood mage, Jowan. He looked back to Maiara and saw the shock and surprise there in her eyes as well, for she had begun to crane her neck upwards. He knew he shouldn’t be alone with her… he knew that a long time ago. And yet, he kept seeking her out… his greatest sin to date. He parted his lips as if to speak but could not find his voice, so he simply gave a curt nod and turned on his heel, stalking down the hall to return to his post… sure he had already been gone too long.

 

Maiara likewise felt the fog lift from her mind, panic replacing it at their sudden discovery. Though, they hadn’t been doing anything to be discovered other than speaking with one another. Yet, they weren’t speaking… and even that was a frowned upon offense. Jowan’s approach had her frown slightly. “What are you doing here?” She had to ask, for it was still quite early.

 

Jowan smirked slightly at the sudden panicked look on her face but quickly recovered. “I need to speak with you…”

 

Maiara listened to his concerns over his own Harrowing… deflected his questions over hers. Tried to dissuade his suspicions over him being made Tranquil. She vehemently denied that… surely they wouldn’t make him tranquil. True, Jowan wasn’t an overly talented mage, if anything… that made him less of a danger. Maiara went about her day after she seemed to ease Jowan’s concerns. Dressing and attending first meal before reporting to the First Enchanter’s office. She was surprised to find both Knight Commander Gregor and a strange man there with him, so she rapped lightly on the open door.