Author's NoteAfter writing the typical Dragon Age fic based on my ingame character, I decided to take a light-hearted look at goings-on within the Circle of Magi.
It's life in the Circle Tower. But not as you know it.
1. Disciplinary Action
Senior Enchanter Tobias, like many of the Circle's instructors, was quite stricken with an ailment that proved particularly burdensome for his pupils - he thought he was rather more interesting and exciting than he actually was. He thought that his long-winded lectures pertaining to the School of Creation were thought-provoking and that the fresh-faced young apprentices who filed into class each day were just desperate to hang on his every word.
He was quite wrong. The Senior Enchanter droned on and on. And on. His voice and speech patterns were as close to those of a Tranquil as it was possible to get without actually being Tranquil. Tobias was famed throughout the ranks of young apprentices for his ability to send them to sleep.
That Tobias maintained the self-image of an exciting practitioner of spellcraft demonstrated a breathtaking level of self-delusion that fascinated his peers within the Circle of Magi.
Sitting in his usual seat - three rows from the back and two desks from the left of the doorway - apprentice Jowan struggled mightily to keep his eyes open as the Senior Enchanter blithered on about channelling mana and using it to restore the injured to full health. Yes, yes, all very important knowledge to have, Jowan supposed but he was rather more interested in learning how to use magic to cause injuries rather than cure them.
Where was the fun in knowing how to cast spells if you couldn't blow something up or make a person dance around attempting to dodge lightning bolts? Instead of talking about how to use magic to heal people, Jowan further thought, wouldn't it be rather more instructive to have an actual injured person present for the students to practice on? It wasn't as though there wasn't already a steady supply of apprentices who found some way to injure themselves on an almost daily basis. Why, only last month, another young apprentice named Talitha had accidentally set her hair of fire.
But it was no good, not even the thought of comely young Talitha on fire could keep Jowan awake any longer. His heavy-lidded eyes slid closed and he fell fast asleep, chin on his chest.
Upon noticing Jowan slumped in his seat and snoring gently, Tobias slammed the tip of his staff into the flagstones beneath his feet. The staff impacted the stone flooring with a sharp crack and Jowan sat bolt upright at his desk, eyes wide open and shouted, "Magic exists to serve mankind and is to never rule over him!"
The rest of the apprentices tittered in amusement as a red flush of embarrassment crept up Jowan's face. They fell silent as Tobias swept the room with a harsh imperious gaze that would have done Knight Commander Greagoir proud.
"Well, I am glad that you have managed to learn at least something during your time with us, Jowan," the Senior Enchanter said. "You are to report for disciplinary action after the day's lessons."
The rest of the assembled apprentices laughed at Jowan's misfortune. Jowan himself wished a hole would open up beneath him so he could disappear. Tobias raised his voice, "And unless the rest of you would like to join him, I suggest you return your attention to page seven hundred and eighty three of your spell books."
As a whole, the apprentices groaned before returning to their studies.
In a similar room half-way around the circumference of the Tower, apprentice Talitha frowned in concentration as she attempted to focus her will on the tongue of flame flickering in the palm of her hand. She, along with twenty-five other apprentices were attempting to master the Primal School of Magic. A line appeared in Talitha's otherwise smooth brow, her eyes squeezed almost shut as she attempted to coax the flame into the foot-high column of fire required by the instructor.
Despite her best efforts, Talitha's mind, perhaps not unreasonably, kept jumping back to that horrible day only a month past when, under these same circumstances, she had lost her focus. The flame dancing in the palm of her hand had quite suddenly evaded her efforts to control it and had ignited her long chestnut hair.
Until that particular incident, Talitha's shoulder-length hair had been the envy of every girl in class. About half of it had gone up in acrid-smelling smoke before Senior Enchanter Catherine extinguished the flames by freezing Talitha's head almost solid. Afterwards, Talitha hadn't been able to decide which had been worse - the burning or the freezing.
Talitha shuddered at the memory; she could almost taste the smell of burning hair. "Focus!" the Senior Enchanter snapped and Talitha glared at her before redoubling her efforts.
A voice from the rear of the class called out, "Hey, she looks like she's constipated!" The rest of the apprentices began laughing at the expression of pained concentration on young Talitha's face.
"Focus!" Catherine again snapped and, voice rising, addressed the rest of the class, "The rest of you, pay attention!"
Despite her efforts, Talitha could feel the fire getting away from her. If I can't control even this simple spell, the Circle will probably force me to become Tranquil!
Oh, now that was an encouraging thought, having her connection to magic and the Fade severed and wiping out her emotions. She may as well drown herself in Lake Calenhad and be done with it.
"Maker's Breath, girl," Senior Enchanter Catherine said in a near-shout, "I said focus!"
"I'm focusing as hard as I can, you old biddy!" Talitha burst out...then blinked in amazement as the feeble candle-flame she'd been struggling with these last ten minutes suddenly burst into the raging pillar of fire the Senior Enchanter had wanted all along.
A collective intake of breath came from the rest of the students and the same apprentice who only minutes ago said she looked constipated now began applauding Talitha's efforts. The rest of the class joined in and Talitha allowed the flame to die, shoulders slumping with the strain. The teenage apprentice's robes clung to her back with perspiration. It had taken all of her control, but she had finally done it.
Senior Enchanter Catherine waited until the applause faded before turning to face the the smiling girl standing before her at the front of the class. "Disciplinary action," Catherine said in flat tones.
"What?" Talitha gasped in shock.
"What was it you said?" Catherine mused to herself, "Oh, now I remember...old biddy, wasn't it? You'll learn to respect your betters, young lady, if nothing else."
"But..." the apprentice mage said helplessly.
"Or would you prefer that I turn you into a statue and leave you on the shores of Lake Calenhad as a warning to future apprentices?"
Talitha's luminous brown eyes went wide in fright and she shook her head vigorously.
"Clever girl. Now get back to your seat!"
With the last of the day's lessons completed - a class known colloquially as 'Potion Making for Fun and Profit. Mostly Profit' - Talitha rose from her desk, collected her weighty leather-bound spell tome and shuffled out the door. "Disciplinary action," she muttered to herself. "Yay. An hour spent writing I will respect my betters over and over while the bloody Templars stand over us just in case we decide to turn maleficar right there!"
William, another young apprentice began walking alongside Talitha as she headed down the hall. William too frequently ran afoul of the Circle's Templar-supervised disciplinary practices. It had not gone unnoticed by Talitha that William always seemed to get himself assigned to disciplinary actions on the very same days that she did. The sixteen year old apprentice did not believe that this was coincidence.
On the one hand, Talitha thought, it was kind of sweet, William getting himself into trouble just he could sit next to her while she wrote I must learn to focus a hundred times. On the other hand, Talitha thought, it was a bit disturbing. William was almost old enough to undergo the Harrowing, Maker preserve her.
"So, disciplinary action?" William asked as he fell into step alongside the younger girl. "What'd you do this time, set the First Enchanter's chambers on fire?"
"Ha ha, very funny," Talitha griped as she dodged around a pair of plate-armoured Templars. Talitha didn't much like the Templars. They were a constant reminder that the Chantry kept even the most skilled of mages on a very short leash. And she was hardly the most skilled of mages. There were more than a few rumours, passed along in hushed whispers to the effect that people joined the Templars just so they could hunt down rogue mages and torture them.
Still, not all the Templars were like that, she thought. There was that young Templar-in-training Alistair who was something of a rarity within the Chantry in that he possessed a sense of humour. That he was rather cute didn't hurt matters either, Talitha admitted to herself.
Rounding a corner, Talitha and William came face to face with the young man in question, almost as though the Maker Himself had placed him there at that precise moment just to see what would happen. Alistair walked alongside another, more senior Templar as the two discussed something in low tones.
As Talitha and William came into view, Alistair nodded briefly to them and smiled slightly at Talitha before continuing past.
"Maker's breath!" Talitha gasped, looking back over her shoulder as she walked, "He smiled at me!"
"Yes," William replied drolly, "He's so-ooo dreamy!" He winced as Talitha punched him in the shoulder, "Ow!"
"Why do you have to be such a pig about things?" Talitha snapped and pushed past William into the chamber set aside for disciplinary actions. Still rubbing his aching arm, William followed.
Jowan looked up as the two new-comers entered the room. Ten of the twenty-five seats were occupied. The mage in charge of supervising the students barely noticed the new arrivals, engrossed as he was in a book of erotic literature from Orlais. Those Orlesians certainly possess some peculiar bedroom habits, he thought. Not that he was complaining. It was certainly more interesting than the Chant of Light.
A Templar by the door ordered Talitha and William to sit down. Another two Templars stood at the rear of the room, ready and more than willing to smite any mageling who even looked like they were going to cause trouble. Talitha rolled her eyes and glanced at the sheet of parchment on Jowan's desk as she took her seat.
The parchment was half full of the same sentence laboriously written over and over, I will not fall asleep during studies
Talitha dipped her quill into the inkwell on the desk and sighed.
It was going to be a long hour.