Title: Blood Pact
Rating: M (mature). NSFW (not safe for work, due to sexual content in the prologue).
Word Count: 1868 words.
PC: None.
Pairing: Niall/Jowan.
Spoilers: Mage Origin, Broken Circle quest spoilers.
Summary: A mage and an apprentice begin as teacher and student, evolve into something so much more, and just as suddenly drift apart. Jealousy is an ugly beast, however, and something as innocent as concern is quickly warped into a twisted obsession. Trapped in the tower, with no where to run, one of the two must yield.

[[ ... Chapter One ... ]]

For six months, they had 'dallied.' Whenever the two of them had a spare moment, they could be found, pressed against each other in the smallest of closets, Niall's hand over Jowan's mouth to keep the apprentice's moans from spilling out into the stone hallways. The relationship in and of itself wouldn't have been a problem, except for the simple fact that Jowan was just that: an apprentice. To make matters even worse, Jowan had a secret that he wasn't sharing with anyone- least of all Niall.

He ducked into the narrow corridor, his best carefully casual expression on his face. He didn't attract the gazes of the templars, for which he was grateful. The last thing that he needed was to be caught on his way to this meeting, on his way to practice blood magic with the slowly growing number of apprentices and mages who felt it was necessary.

They were promised freedom, sweet, out-of-reach freedom; promised lives away from the templars, from the chafing bonds of the Chantry. All they had to do was find a means of subduing their captors in case no one would listen to reason; to this end, all of them were practicing the most forbidden of all magic, the one magic that would get them killed on sight if anyone knew. To secure their freedom, each and every one of them became maleficarum.

It was a title that didn't sit well with Jowan, no matter how important it was that they break free. He didn't like it, didn't really care that he was becoming a stronger mage; it was still wrong, and he knew it. Oh, he dressed it up well enough: it was going to make him a better mage; it was for their freedom; it would impress Niall when he saw-

But no, Niall wasn't going to be impressed. He would be horrified, and Jowan knew that. The enchanter was firmly against blood magic, without the slightest inclination toward even a hypothetical discussion of it. He was as against it as he was for leaving society. Then again, Niall had many reasons for wanting to leave society, most of which had very little to do with his being a mage. At least, as little to do with that as was possible, considering their entire existences rolled around being mages.

He sighed as he entered the small room, warded with a suggestion to just keep walking (it affected everyone who didn't know the pass phrase: bound in blood and magic), and he smiled at the young woman who met him first. They exchanged salutes- standard mage salute, cup each hand over an imaginary ball in the middle of your chest- and she headed out as he ducked into the room. Several daggers were sitting on the table in the middle of the room, and a few mages- never more than three at a time- were already practicing, drawing their own blades down their arms or legs to release the blood necessary for the spells.

Jowan picked one of the discarded blades up, light glinted off of the blood still wet on it, and he drew his fingers over it, not quite touching the shiny red fluid. It followed him, rolling down and off of the dagger into a ball that hovered just under his fingertips. For a moment, he let it, watched it as it floated an inch from his skin, and he sighed softly before he pointed a finger and trailed it around the edge of the blood. It spun, slowly, a macabre dancer in the air as it spilled out of its confined orb shape and into a loose constellation of tiny droplets.

"Impressive. You have always had a knack for this though, haven't you?"

His spine stiffened, and Jowan turned to see who was speaking. Uldred. There was something not quite right about the man, even if Jowan couldn't figure out what it was. The senior enchanter always seemed a little ... boastful, to the point that he even spoke about their group in front of others. Always in code, but still, it was dangerous. It could get them all killed faster than anything else.

"Senior Enchanter Uldred," his words were forced through a painful smile, and he returned his attention to the blood, which he carefully collected in a small urn. All of the spare blood was collected there, so as to reduce the sheer amount of cuts and nicks they all had to endure for their training. They needed the blood however, and some spells were harder to cast than others. Particularly anything involving demons. Those rituals often called for more blood than was in a single human body. Jowan didn't like those.

"We haven't seen you in several days, Jowan. I was beginning to worry." His dark eyebrows arched, and Jowan swallowed. His chest felt tight. He didn't like this game that the enchanters played either.

"Niall has been keeping me busy." His tone was strictly neutral. If Uldred ever knew how much he upset the apprentice, he would press his advantage. Jowan's best defense was to cower behind his mentor, no matter how childish it made him appear.

"I imagine he has." The grin on Uldred's face made Jowan's throat close for a moment. How much did the senior enchanter know? Would it matter? "In any case, it doesn't matter much. You should be due for your Harrowing soon, yes? You've been here for some time now."

"Yes, senior enchanter." Jowan bobbed his head, grateful for the excuse to look down. Niall had been hinting that it would be time soon for Jowan's Harrowing as well. Scared as he was, Jowan was quick to admit that he was looking forward to it. He was tired of being an apprentice, especially since every year he was, he got that much closer to the Rite of Tranquility. It was probably his greatest fear, being made Tranquil. Owain gave him the creeps.

Uldred's grin widened; Jowan could feel it in the sound of his voice. "Well, better get on it soon then, hadn't they? Else they'll have to do something else to you. We can't have apprentices as old as you for very long."

There was really nothing that Jowan could say. He hesitated, and then set the blade back on the table. He didn't feel like he could practice much; he was shaking too hard. "If you'll excuse me, senior enchanter," he whispered, his throat dry enough to ache, "I only came by to tell you that I might be another few days. Niall has me on a short enough leash right now."

Uldred waved a hand, and Jowan bolted, ashamed as he was to have to describe it thus. By the time he managed to get himself under control, he had clearly startled at least two templars, both of whom were eyeing him quite strangely. He offered a tight smile, and then slowed himself to a brisk walk, heading ... no where, really.

He didn't know what he was supposed to do. He didn't like where he was going; there was no way out. Becoming a maleficarum was not exactly for the faint of heart, and he had been given warning to back out long before it got this far. But no, he had plowed ahead, not thinking of the consequences, only thinking that it might help him in his studies, might encourage them to test him sooner. He was beginning to think that they would never test him at all though.

Niall was hiding something; Jowan knew that much. Uldred reminded him every chance he got, every time that the senior enchanter managed to catch Jowan alone, he cornered the apprentice, terrorized him. And Jowan couldn't do a thing about it. Niall protected him if he saw it happening, but since Jowan had joined the rebellion, the coalition of mages wanting their freedom, Uldred got far more chances than Niall knew.

Jowan sighed softly, reaching up to rub a hand over his face, his other hand landing on his hip as he stopped walking slowly. What was he going to do? There was no way he could back out now, not with as much as he knew; Uldred would kill him personally before that happened. Yet, he was never going to get his Harrowing, it seemed, and Niall wasn't exactly the most forthcoming with that sort information. Or any information really, that didn't directly concern either sex or Jowan's studies. Hell, Jowan didn't even know the enchanter's favorite color. After six months!

His head jerked up at a soft noise coming from a nearby closet, and Jowan's face flushed darkly. It was the same closet that he and Niall favored, the one with the ledge built in that was the perfect height-

Jowan looked away, and quickly, he started walking again, not wanting to hear anything more than he already had. Niall's rooms were just ahead in the hallway, and he hesitated just outside of them for a moment, his hand raised to knock. Voices from the other side of the door stopped him though, and there was a heartbeat where he knew he needed to simply walk away. And then it was squelched by the overwhelming curiosity, by the need to know what was going on. Who had Niall arranged to meet while Jowan was on his break?

He muttered the spell softly, not wanting to attract the attention of the templars at the end of the hall, and he pretended to be studying the ceiling, hands interlaced behind his head as he looked up. To be fair, it was a really fascinating ceiling, having been painted at some point to look like the night sky.

But it wasn't nearly as interesting as the words that his whispered spell brought to his ears. Harrowing. Not yet ready. Might never be ready. Dangerous. He drew a deep breath, his brow furrowing as he tried to understand what he was hearing. Tranquility.

A cold feeling washed over him, a bucket of ice down the back of his robes, and his hands slipped to fall uselessly to his side. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe. Niall was recommending Tranquility for him? Truly? His hand clenched, then loosened, and Jowan looked away, breathing hard. Niall knew how he felt about the Rite, that he would rather be dead than made Tranquil. And yet, the damning fact was simple enough to understand: Niall didn't think he was ready; thought that it might be dangerous for him to undergo a Harrowing.

Another moment, and then the door was opening, and Jowan managed to quickly paste a bland smile on his face, a vacant look in his eyes. "Oh, First Enchanter!" He half-bowed, half-saluted, as though he couldn't decide which one was more appropriate. Irving patted him lightly on the shoulder, offering him a kindly smile before he headed down the hall.

Niall met his gaze easily enough, a smile of his own on his face. But it was fake. Six months of watching Niall handle other enchanters had taught Jowan his tells, taught him what to look for. Niall was lying to him, and he hadn't said a word yet.