Author: Zerbinetta PM
The Circle makes, the Circle breaks, but it never, ever stops turning. "Hey, I remember you from the Tower!" "Hey, I wish I didn't!"Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Adventure - Anders & Surana - Chapters: 11 - Words: 51,971 - Reviews: 38 - Favs: 54 - Follows: 75 - Updated: 11-23-12 - Published: 04-06-10 - id: 5875204
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
After I finished Awakening with a mage PC, a small story popped into my head and I want to get it out before the idea becomes old and unusable. This shouldn't be more than seven or eight chapters, possibly less, and doesn't mean that Ever After won't be updated.
I'm not entirely certain whether the mage PC here is Nimue or another one, but I'll just have to wait and see on that. Comments regarding that and the rest of the story are entirely welcome. I found that I'm actually glad there wasn't any romance in Awakening beyond very gentle teasing courtesy of Anders, because I'm not entirely certain I could have chosen between him and Nathaniel. Shame on you, Bioware, though, because I know you could have pulled it off.
Anyway, enough of that, read and review please, and, most of all, enjoy.
The first time he escaped from the tower couldn't be counted among his actual escapes, for several reasons.
One, he had yet to reach the tower itself. That particular incident happened on the day he was being brought in as an apprentice mage. One obviously couldn't escape from a place he wasn't present at. One rocky little boat, two armored templars and a ferryman whistling a sickeningly pleasant tune to himself. What joy to travel in such company!
Two, it wasn't an escape in the normal sense of the word. It wasn't as if he planned to have the boat start rocking thanks to the waves courtesy of a sudden summer thunderstorm that erupted mid-journey (the templars had hoped to cross the lake as soon as possible) and have it flip over so that he could escape. Still, never let it be said that such an opportunity should go to waste.
Three, the actual escape lasted for about ten minutes - fifteen, if you counted the rest of the sullen boat journey – as the templars managed to catch him, fish him out of the lake and get him across. They were surprisingly apt swimmers, once they shed their cuirasses to prevent themselves from sinking, but twelve-year-old Anders supposed anyone carrying that stupid armor around all the time had to be. Despite the rain and the potential drowning, they had kept their helmets on, which said everything one needed to know about their intelligence.
And four, no one really acknowledged it as an escape attempt; just bad weather conditions. And at that point, he wasn't about to start correcting them.
For three-and-a-half years, he had very successfully been hiding his own magical ability, using just a bit of it here and there to help himself survive. Unfortunately, he had to admit that trying to pickpocket someone while listening to the Revered Mother preach in the Denerim Chantry and then reflexively reach out for whatever sliver of magic he possessed to get out of that mess hadn't been his brightest idea.
Sure, he had gotten out of that scrape (he was smart, after all), but a recognized thief knew quite well that the chase couldn't go on forever. Besides, while the templars didn't seem to have much room for brains under their bucket helmets, they still had eyes and a good deal of muscle.
And, you know, swords. Sharp ones.
Kinoch Hold, or the Tower of Magi, as it was more commonly known, would have been more impressive if it wasn't squat in the middle of nowhere. It was like a lighthouse, straight in the middle of the lake, a tower three times as tall as any of the Denerim houses; possibly even Fort Drakon, the fear of every con and cutpurse in town. But whereas the prison was associated with red in everyone's mind, Kinoch Hold could best be described as blue. Not due to the waters or the night; but because there was the light of magic inside. Even now, he could feel some of it.
"Looks like they've rolled out a hasty welcome wagon for you, lad." the ferryman noted kindly as they were nearing the small dock near the end of the ruined bridge leading over the lake. At that point, Anders would have most gleefully whacked him with his own paddle.
It was a prison, every thief's fear, this place. After all, he could see the warden already.
The Knight-Commander of the templars had been alerted of the approaching boat only due to the dreadful weather outside; the watch had been unsure as to what they should do. After it became clear that the foursome would make it across – soaked, but alive – it was too discourteous to leave so abruptly, especially since he made a point of keeping civil relations with Kester.
Somehow, with his stone-colored eyes and unmoving features, this man achieved the statue look all templars thought was the rage without any trying – without a helmet, even. And while the magenta-and-purple skirt seemed silly on the others, Anders wasn't certain he could easily talk back to someone whose capacity for taking a joke seemed less than a spoonful.
"I see you've made it safely. See to it that our ferryman gets a warm meal and dries himself off." Hard, but fair. The Knight-Commander looked most peculiar when he was offering niceties, though. "You can stay the night, if you want, Kester."
The upbeat ferryman didn't seem terrified of the templar-in-chief, but neither did he appear too keen to stay. "No, no, Lissie likes her own home best, the dock here is too deep for her. The storm'll pass in less than an hour and I'll be off then, unless you need someone brought over to the shore."
"Not today, no." That apparently counted as a dismissal; the ferryman gave Anders one more irritating smile, which the boy ignored, and followed another templar away to get his food and warmth. He was apparently as bewildered by the inside of the tower as a permanent resident should be. "Ser Banan. Ser Reily." If the templars had looked silly in their armor, the linen shirts they wore under their armor looked downright hilarious with the skirts. Especially when combined with the buckets. "I see the Maker continues to guide your steps. This is the boy, then?"
Involuntarily, Anders shuddered just a little when the man-statue looked at him. That had to be an excellent party trick.
"You may go; rest for a while. Your postings are being covered for tonight and tomorrow. Report to the armory for replacements as well." The templars bowed and exited so hastily, one didn't know if they were proud or ashamed of their achievement of having survived the lake. Of course, that left Anders alone with the razor-eyed jailer. The boy actually wondered how much self-flaggelation it took to achieve such a look of stone cold peace and yet terror. "I assume you understand well enough where you are and why you've been brought here."
Anders couldn't help it; sarcasm was his language in moments such as these. You had to laugh to keep yourself from crying, after all. "It certainly isn't a good vacation spot."
The Knight-Commander missed or ignored any bait in the statement; perhaps he was simply trained to take no notice. Or maybe if his facial muscles moved an inch, he would truly look as if he were passing a kidney stone.
"As you're alone today, we cannot spare one of the senior mages to show you around." Well, if he wasn't wanted, he could always leave. Anders was just about to suggest it, but the rhythmic tapping of quick footsteps preceded that remark. The Knight-Commander's eyes moved to the runner, not betraying any hint of emotion; not even the mild, barely noticeable annoyance in his tone. "Here is your guide; on time, for once."
Said guide turned out to be a girl. Or rather, a short, pallid slip of a girl in a blue dress that was just a little too long for her, looking about as excited about this assignment as he usually did about garbage duty. She squinted at him rather like a tax collector looking for a reason to demand more money from a poor old lady, but resisted wrinkling her nose. Instead, her ears flared out just enough to be noticeable as she blinked.
Then, ignoring him entirely, the elf turned to the Knight-Commander and announced her assessment.
"He can't be an apprentice, he's way too old."
"Hey!" He didn't really stop to consider if this might get him out of here – disqualified as a mage due to being older than the other apprentices. "If I knew mages were scrawny marsh toads, I would have brought some food with me."
To her credit, the elf didn't bristle, choosing to sneer instead. "Well, you already have the marsh toad look down, so lose some weight and you'll fit right in."
"Manners, apprentices." Andraste's frilly garters, the man just had to butt in when he was about to give a good rebuttal. Now he had forgotten it and had to come up with a new one. In the meantime, he could stick to enjoying the way the elf girl tried to avoid looking anywhere near the old man's face and instead glowered at the Sword of Mercy on his cuirass. "You have enough to content with without botching your own punishment. Ability means nothing without discipline."
The apprentice looked like her jaw was about to snap off from the pressure of her teeth, but she managed not to set anything on fire. She actually bobbed her head almost imperceptibly.
"I shall give your advice all its due consideration, Knight-Commander."
It was entirely clear that the Knight-Commander had, at one time, looked up the definition of sarcasm in a book or asked someone more knowledgeable about it. However, it seemed that taking the time to dignify such lashes with a parry worthy of the effort would interfere with their brooding time.
However, judging by the slight wavering to the elf's brashness, the templar had aced the Stony Stares class with expertise.
"Just show the boy around and try not to make too much of a spectacle out of yourself."
He must have been a mean competitor in the Stalking Away With Frosty Dignity too.
Only once he was around the corner and gone did the elf girl's shoulders slump down, as if the fist around her throat had been released. Math wasn't his favorite thing in the world, but it was easy to do here. Especially since the way she surveyed him afterwards was just as impetuous as before.
"Why are you wet?"
Apparently, she hadn't heard of the wonderful invention commonly known as a window. Or perhaps her sight was as narrow as her repertoire of expressions.
"Because I just couldn't resist the lovely mud-filled lake?"
The elf rolled her eyes, but they sadly remained in her skull. In their place, he would have taken the opportunity to merrily roll away.
"Oh, a clown." She said that like it was a bad thing! With all these templars around, it couldn't be! "Just what we needed."
"With all the skirt-wearing bucket-heads prancing around?" That was his point exactly – not that the elf seemed to appreciate it. "I doubt it."
The elf sighed to herself, making it sound rather like a grumble. She looked like she was choosing between removing her spleen with a blunt spoon and donating her kidneys to a charity intent on saving the lake´s wildlife. "Well, I won't have you messing up the tower on my head."
Before he could question this nonsensical imperiousness of hers or point out something sufficiently biting, she started waving her hands around. At first, he momentarily thought that there was actual steam coming out of his ears due to being robbed of his (second) chance at sniping at someone. It took a few seconds to make it obvious that the steam was coming from his clothes as well, with gentle warmth he wasn't at all used to. There was no contraption in all of Ferelden that could have drawn all the cold moistness from his damp clothes, certainly not so quickly.
Momentarily, he was bewildered and stared at the elf as if she had just turned into a three-headed darkspawn with a pirate eyepatch, wooden leg and parrot, and the parrot was asking him to dance the remigold with them. While juggling gerbils.
"H-how d'you do that?" The stammer wasn't the most dignified sound he'd ever made, but it sufficed to demonstrate his sentiment.
A crescent up, a crescent down, clockwise went the elf's eyes, as murky and cool as the lake's water. "Magic, clown-face." She said it as if that were the most obvious thing in the world. Then again, maybe it was, to her. "That's why you're here. Well, come on, hurry up."
He decided not to point out that it was her punishment (apparently), so she did have all day and should be nice. Come to think of it, maybe the bucket-heads would be interested in hearing how badly his tour guide had behaved towards the poor new kid… but then he remembered that he still had very little idea as to how one should defend oneself from magic. He rather liked his hair the way it was, no alterations needed.
The elf was already up the first set of stairs, not looking back, so he decided to hurry up a little. Just this once. It wasn't that the tower was big and dark and already suffocating him, despite the tall majestic windows and the broad corridors and the shelves upon shelves of valuables so carelessly thrown around that it seemed the mages were actually inviting pickpockets and thieves.
His guide was already chattering on about the various things and places, but he only paid attention when something interesting caught his eye. In the library, that meant the various mages attempting the spells they were looking up in the various books. He had heard that libraries were supposed to be quiet, but there was just no stopping the buzzing all around them, like a beehive.
There was a statue of Andraste nearby, with a young-ish priestess questioning a couple of children about the Chantry's words on magic. The woman spotted them and gave a kind smile, which disrupted the otherwise familiar image of the preaching robed figure in his mind; in Denerim, urchins weren't welcome guests anywhere. But the elf girl kept her gaze fixed in front of her, as frosty and clench-jawed as she had been before the head templar.
Religious hostility from an elf! Who'd ever have guessed?
When it came down to it, there actually were quite a few elves around, mingling easily with the humans. And there was no uproar about it, no one staring or whispering. It was… normal here, it seemed.
Well, if they were willing to take in street rats like him, they probably really were a few coppers short of a sovereign.
He spent about three seconds too long staring at a shiny sextant on display and knocked straight into his guide, who had apparently stopped for a moment. It would no doubt be frog-time quite soon, since the templars were almost conveniently positioned in a way that had them looking away.
But no, she was talking to some old guy in a dress. What was it with the skirts, anyway? Did the bright colors help cast magic? Did magic cause you to lose control over your urinary tract, making taking off your belt too slow for nature's call? Because it certainly wasn't good for running or making a non-quirky fashion statement.
"-making yourself useful to Senior Enchanter Pirjo, I see."
"It was asked of me." Feet shuffled and the elf sounded a bit bashful.
Oh, look, they were still talking and he wasn't a toad yet. Come to think of it, he hadn't yet seen anyone else wearing green around the tower. Lots of blue and yellow, a bit of red here and there, but no green. Purple and magenta was apparently reserved for the templars.
Come to think of it, why did they need the skirts?
"No need to be so tense, young man, lest you wish to unnerve the templars with your frustration."
It took a well-placed elbow to actually alert Anders to the fact he was being spoken to. Smart-mouthed bastard, wasn't he? "How d'you guess?" he blurted out, eying the indulgent smile he was receiving with suspicion.
"Manners!" the elf hissed, apparently horrified that someone would dare such a thing. This time, though, the elbow was predictable.
"None, thank you."
Greybeard Greendress chuckled in a manner that was annoying in one's own grandparents and downright infuriating in strangers. "I see you're rather well-matched already." The elf opened her mouth, but caught whatever response she had formulated, contenting herself with a rather pathetic impersonation of a half-dead fish. "Don't forget the essentials, please."
"Of course, First Enchanter." the elf bowed her head in the obvious hope that she would sink into the floor and never resurface. Were it not for the First Enchanter's annoying non-offensive smugness, Anders was certain he would have been laughing on the floor somewhere. "Have a good day."
She practically ran off from the spot, almost losing even him in the crowd of mages. Anders was actually huffing a little after chasing after her up two flights of stairs, which she had climbed with practiced dexterity. He had caught up only because she was finally slowing down.
Curse whichever blighter had decided that the mages be housed in a tower!
"Essentials?" he asked once they passed the next statue-like templar patrol without as much as a word. In the city, the templars didn't always wear those funny helmets. Here, though, they apparently thought that even looking at the mages with unshielded eyes would taint them somehow. All except the Knight-Commander, who had a permanent helmet of a different kind.
"Where the kitchens and toilets are." The elf girl sounded a bit absent-minded now, still analyzing what had happened and trying not to. It was obvious – she actually looked at him almost kindly, which was weird enough. "You'd be surprised by the things people do when they believe chocolate is on the line…"
"And what happens when they discover it isn't chocolate, I imagine." Due to the color and substance, it was relatively easy to replace it with other… stuff. The smell was a problem, at times, but considering this was usually near the heavily-scented Orlesian stalls at the market, even that could be overcome if one was crafty enough.
Incredulously, the elf blinked, her thoughts practically playing out on her face like a series of pictures.
"I don't think that… you're not going to make too many friends here if you mess with the limited chocolate supply."
"Right." Limited supply was better than no supply, which was what he was used to. Besides, he wasn't in the tower to make friends; he was there to learn enough magic to be able to control it or at least hide it well. Then, he was out of here. In the meantime, though, there had to be some entertainment around. "So what do you do here when you're not being mages?"
The elf blinked, but didn't berate him for asking stupid questions. "We're always being mages."
"I mean when you're not waving sparks off your fingers or turning stuff into frogs." he amended, having the grace not to roll his eyes himself. After all, the fish-faced look on the elf's face was not worth spoiling,
"Studying, you mean."
Up and down and all around went the brown eyes before settling on the elf's face once again. "Yeah, that." If it made her feel better to think of it in rationalizing terms, why not? "What do you people do for fun here? Games? Sports?" Anders almost didn't dare ask, but then again, you never knew. "Parties?"
At the mention of the last one, the smile that had been threatening to spread over her face finally cracked into the open; the elf actually laughed, if curtly. "Spoiled rich boy, are you?"
"Shrill voiced gutter-snipe, are you?" he shot back, wiping the smugness from her expression. "Answer the question."
The elf bristled, but turned around and kept walking up the stairs. "I don't know what would entertain a shem used to wallowing in the mud all day… but here, we actually work." Low blows against which he couldn't defend himself without sounding wrong or petty were so not fair. "I know that must be a novelty to you."
Changing the point of view of the topic it was, then.
"Do you even know what the concept of fun is?" With that chip on her shoulder and the way someone had stuck a magic wand somewhere uncomfortable, Anders severely doubted it. Not that the elf would even acknowledge the rhetorical question.
Surprisingly, she turned just over her shoulder and gave him a brief look that was hard and yet somehow empty, something he had seen in trapped animals that were nearly ready to accept their cage.
"Yes. One of the things they are against." She didn't look at the templars they were passing, but the tension wasn't something that could be faked. Maybe that was an upsurge of magic she was suppressing, even. "You'd better get used to our friendly neighborhood templars soon, though."
"Like the city watch, only they've really got you trapped, huh? Wonderful." A prison full of shiny things. The perfect trap for most people he knew, but certainly not a place where he hoped to spend the rest of his life. The bucket-heads did, though. "Are they allowed to move?" he asked his guide, a bit more quietly this time.
"Not unless something happens, I guess." the elf shrugged after a moment's consideration. "I've not yet gotten into that much trouble."
"Do they always wear those buckets?"
Again, just for a moment, the elf chortled, but tried to maintain a neutral expression. She failed rather miserably. "Not all of them… why?"
"Well, it's just that it isn't any fun to make faces at them if you can't see their reactions, you know?"
The elf said nothing, simply continued walking up and down flights of stairs, showing him corridors he'd soon have to rediscover himself after forgetting them, rooms filled with various things that made noises and shone but didn't explode and many, many people in skirts.
Eventually, they were back at the bottom of the tower, near where Anders supposed the entrance was. At least, he remembered the giant double doors off in the distance. But the elf made a beeline for one of the smaller doorways to the side. On the other side was a room even taller and more enormous than those they had passed through. Actually, it was nearly as big as one of the library wings and twice as tightly-organized. Everywhere, there were rows of beds and neatly prepared footlockers, but also people – humans and elves both – dressed in matching cornflower blue robes, chattering around, reading or resting.
"Wow, this is big." Anders couldn't help but mutter to himself as he followed the elf through the small crowds.
No one was staring. No one noticed. Well, maybe they did – the fact that he wasn't yet dressed as one of them. But otherwise, it seemed no one here cared whence you came.
The elf had stopped next to one of the beds and gestured towards it and all around while looking for some hidden indication or number on the bunk. "This is where you'll live from now on."
"Great, but what are these people doing in my room?"
Someone nearby might have laughed, but the elf didn't, still searching for the numeral.
"It's their room as well. These are the Apprentice Quarters. And here… yes, here's your bed." She straightened up once again, grinning a bit, as if she had performed some feat of skill. "You'll find everything you need inside."
Now that was a rather broad definition of what the footlocker might contain, so Anders decided not to waste too much time and opened it, rummaging through it with skill. No potions, no boomstick, no lockpick supply (though he hadn't really hoped for that one). Instead…
"Hey, I think this is the wrong bed." What he got was a supply of plain but clean smallclothes, socks that actually matched and several copies of the same, familiar outfit… "This is girls' clothing."
The elf looked torn between laughing and rolling her eyes for a second time. Apparently, she didn't usually have to give this lecture to people. "No, those are robes. you'll wear them from now on. Like a uniform."
Three kinds of people had uniforms, in his experience: priests, templars and prisoners.
"What? No! I won't wear a skirt! Not on your life." He might have the legs to pull it off, but he certainly wasn't about to advertize that fact. One time of sneaking away from a house in girl's clothes and passing quite well for a little daughter of a well-to-do noble had been embarrassing enough.
"I know you must be quite attached to your dirt, but here, we have enough problems without a plague." the elf sniped at him with a childish gleefulness of one who wasn't able to vent her frustrations nearly often enough. "Now change."
That certainly topped the idea of dressing up in a skirt.
"Are you crazy? In front of you?" And the several dozens of people in the general vicinity, but most importantly, straight in front of her… "You're a girl!" he said, as if she didn't yet know that herself. "Barely a girl, but still!"
"Very funny." When narrowed, the elf's eyes looked as cold as the muddy water of the lake. "In case you've missed it, there is no such thing as privacy here."
"You don't say." Paper boats and little flyers, enchanted to soar through the air, narrowly avoided their heads and hurried back to a pack of laughing apprentices, one or two of which shouted warnings and apologies in turn.
Anders did notice that no one hurried to greet or speak to his guide, though. She put a nice show of pretending not to care, too.
"The baths are that way." she pointed out instead, gesticulating quite clearly. She could very well have been head of a storage house. "Toilets too. There's a signal for when the meals are had, so just follow the crowd."
What, no alarms for when it was time for nature to call? That was so disappointing. "Is this a school or a prison?"
Twitch went the elf's lips, but it was a sad sight. "A little bit of both."
"Huh, neat." His two absolutely favorite things in the world combined. Suddenly, it wasn't worth all the shiny things around. Besides, templar armor was shiny and it wasn't as if he was about to steal any of that. "So, how long does it take to become a full mage? Because this place sounds too dull for my tastes."
The elf wasn't listening; or, if she was, she didn't pay any attention to such nonsense. Instead, she dug through the pockets of her robes and produced a neatly-folded piece of paper, handing it to him. "Here's your timetable, so it isn't on my head if you don't come to classes on time tomorrow."
The only fortune he had in this moment was that in a time long ago, his mother had taught him his letters and, once again, the various orphanages had tried to get some of them to practice reading the Chantry's words. Still, he was a bit rusty in this, slower than he'd like. But being spared the indignity of asking the elf to read aloud for him was worth almost anything.
The bigger words took some time, but he understood the gist of it – and the elf probably thought he was frowning because he didn't understand the terms mentioned on the paper. Which he didn't, for some of them.
"Basic Alchemy, Theory of Thaumaturgy, History of Magic… where's the Blowing Stuff Up class?" And some kind of Invisibility for Beginners, that would be exceedingly helpful. "That might come in useful."
The elf didn't even crack a smile when studies were concerned, coming back to her stiff-lipped self. "Primal magic isn't taught until you've learned to master the basics." she announced, as if she were the high mistress of magic or something.
"You're a real teacher's pet, aren't you?" That assumption hit home, apparently, because she looked ready to tear the robes she was holding out for him apart. For the moment, she settled for jamming them over his head in a manner that suggested she'd prefer to strangle him with their sleeves. "I've got eyes, especially how ramrod straight you stood in front of that old guy."
"I'll thank you not to speak of First Enchanter Irving that way." the elf huffed, still fussing around to make sure the robes fit, rather like a persistent mother. In fact, she seemed to have completely forgotten that he was still wearing the recently dried clothes underneath.
"Ooh, someone's got a crush." And a good strangle-hold, apparently, but he couldn't exactly coo that at her. For one, it would encourage her, and on the other hand, he had very little air to stop his face from turning purple, let alone to speak.
"Ooh, someone is a childish git." The elf was finally satisfied with her handiwork a few moments later. She didn't bother trying to smooth out the frumpy robes – actually, she seemed to be trying to touch him as little as possible – because, in comparison to her own almost immaculate attire, everything looked frumpy.
"The truth cannot be denied." Anders grinned broadly, but the elf girl wasn't moved at all. It went to show that this expression only worked on rich fools. But not on prissy elf marsh toads. That was kind of a long moniker, though. "So, do I just call you bookworm? If there ever was the physical embodiment of one, I imagine it would look just like you; the spitting image."
This was obviously the one question she hadn't been expecting and thus blinked once, twice and again before answering in an almost guarded manner. "Surana."
Now that wasn't easy to twist into something more entertaining. Mind you, Anders was nothing if unwilling to make a decent effort. "Smarmypants? Oh, sorry, skirt."
Aside from some gritting teeth and death glares, no clobbering him to death yet. Well, there was a game worth playing, probably. She wasn't too red-faced yet, but there was a trace of pink blotches on her face. "No, Surana." She pronounced the name carefully, so that even a slow-witted donkey would have been able to repeat it. "My name is Surana."
"What kind of name is that?" Given that Anders knew relatively few elves, this wasn't a surprising question. But the few he knew tended to have rather distinctive names.
"A surname." The girl gave the curt reply with the air of someone who had given it many times before.
"I gathered that." Usually, it was the reverse – people gave their given names freely, but took care with their surnames, so that they couldn't be identified so easily. Or maybe… Anders tilted his head, studying the elf while she refolded the timetable and stored it safely in the footlocker, so that it wouldn't get lost. "What, is your name ugly?"
She finished, stopped for a moment and glanced at him accusingly. "I like my name."
"It is!" Anders grinned, feeling like a hawk ready to descend. Indirect questions via taunting and teasing were his favorite. "With a first name like Ugly, I wouldn't want people to call me that either."
"It's better than Stupid, at least."
"Hey, manners!" he shot back in a decent imitation of her previous exclamation. Only much, much more squeaky at that. "Besides, I have a nice name."
"Good for you." The elf didn't look particularly impressed and made a move to evade him and slip away. Anders briefly wondered if she lived in the same dormitory section, since it seemed the apprentices all shared the same rooms. "I hope you settle in all right."
Somehow, she made it sound Not Nice At All. Which wasn't fair.
"Hey! Aren't you even going to ask?"
Wearily, she turned back, channeling her most annoyed expression. Oh, she was good at this. "Do I have to?"
"You're dreadfully impolite, you know." But Anders knew how to play this game. Dutiful little lickspittle, was she? There were tricks for people like that, just so. "Not making me feel welcome at all, so far away from home and everything I knew…"
The elf's left eye twitched just a little, but the Duty and Possible Punishment for Lack of It card won in the end. "What's your name?" she asked, rather quietly.
Folding his arms pensively, Anders decided to milk the advantage until it had gone. Which meant at least for a few more moments. "I suddenly don't feel very much like telling you." he drawled, plopping down on the bed in a show of being hurt by her lack of interest.
The bed was soft, so much that he almost sank into it. Actual feathers. Maybe this wouldn't be such a terrible stay after all. A luxurious prison was the least they could dish out for him, if he had to stay here for a while.
The elf sighed to herself, looking about ready to throw her arms up in the air and give up. "Fine. I don't care."
"It's Anders, by the way." he called out just as her back was to him.
Again, the elf stopped, turned just a little and looked as though she might give a smug grin, but didn't. She was a bit hurt over the Ugly thing, but did her best not to show it. "That's too bad. Stupid matches you so wonderfully."
She was really bad at this friends-through-uncomfortable-circumstances thing. That was refreshing.
"So what's yours?" Anders asked, actually curious for the moment. Embarrassing nicknames were far more effective when they were personalized.
"Maybe I just don't have one."
"I told you mine."
"I didn't ask you to."
This was getting repetitive and mildly annoying. "You're so infuriating, you know that?"
"I've been told." the elf conceded without a fault.
"Well, I just thought you should know."
The elf glanced up at a contraption that was like the great clock of the Chantry tower, but filled with various spheres and glyphs that made it look nothing like it. Obviously, it had to show the time – or it just confirmed that All Mages Were Loonies, if that wasn't obvious already.
"Dinner should be in about an hour. That way to the baths, if you've forgotten already."
Just enough time for one more attempt. "Marsh Toad it is, then, since you always find your way to the water!" Anders proclaimed with a grin, waiting for the reward for his efforts.
Unfortunately, over the course of the past few hours, the elf had become partly immune to these snipes; her face was flushed, but she kept her silence as she walked away. "Let's see if you can do the same, Piglet."
Later on, he found out several things about his temporary guide, not that he tried to, per se.
One, her name was indeed Surana – no one knew her first name, because she refused to tell them. Apparently, she had this weird idea that her name was the only thing that was hers alone now and so didn't intend to share it with anyone. As the months passed, he learned to see the point of that sentiment, though he kept making it another reason why she was as kooky as others seemed to believe.
Two, she was a loner both by choice and by circumstance; if she made an effort to be easier to approach, she might have more than the single friend she spoke to. If she was less of a lecturer's pet (or creepy bookworm loner – all of which translated into prodigy), the others might have made a larger effort to try and befriend her.
Three, once someone got her out of her prissy mask of high and mightiness, she had amusing reactions to pranks and teasing, mostly leading to entertainment in an otherwise horribly dull tower.
That much he had suspected since the very first day, considering the fact that four, she had sent him to the girl's bathroom.