A Recipe for Cake: Jowan
Jowan snickered to himself as he imagined the templar named Cullen stalking the Circle Tower in search of him. The fool would be fighting a beastly case of lyrium shakes by now, and Jowan could only imagine the expression. Given the templar's fairly junior standing within the order, Jowan doubted he would be facing the more lethal withdrawal symptoms. But still, the thought of him shuddering on the floor was enough to bring a wide smile to Jowan's day.
He casually flipped through the cabinetry in the kitchen to take stock of what was available. Now that the knife-eared wench was out of his way, he had free rein, and where there was Jowan, there was always some kind of mischief to be conceived. Their short conversation had been more unnerving than he was willing to admit, but she was gone, and he could put those blue, penetrating eyes out of his mind. What would she really know about Lily, anyway? Or love? Everyone in the tower had been watching those... those two dance around each other for years. What was so difficult? All they needed was to get into bed and get on with their lives.
The dry goods pantry was surprisingly paltry for a kitchen that supplied the foodstuffs for an entire fortress island with no arable land and a lot of hungry young mouths. How often did they get resupply shipments? Jowan gnawed on the thought as he rummaged through bundles of roots and dried mushrooms. He picked up a bundle and examined it. What on earth did they use these for? He snorted. Perhaps there would be something better in the cellar.
Everyone wanted something. It was a lesson Jowan had learned early on in life. People took, and you had to take back. Generosity was an illusion for fools; in the end, they'd find some way to take from you anyway. The chantry girl probably just wanted him to bring her potions. Something. Whatever. Out of his mind.
All such thoughts were indeed driven out of Jowan's mind a moment later when he threw open the double wide doors to the Circle Tower's infamous cellar, which was, in fact, something of a misnomer. In actuality it was a very large storage closet on the ground floor magically enchanted to preserve objects at a stable temperature. A device installed decades ago by a very forward thinking and enterprising First Enchanter who had a vision of starting a new trend for such devices across the breadth of Ferelden, thereby enabling the year-round storage of fresh local and imported fruits to be used in the production of mixed fruit torts, which were the then-First Enchanter's personal weakness. Unfortunately, the cost of producing and deploying such large, ungainly devices ultimately proved unfeasible for the mages, and the First Enchanter eventually left his long years of office leaving behind nothing of even his name: only the legacy of his preservation unit. And there, laid out before Jowan like a glorious army of white capped and golden custard soldiers, was a table covered in pies as long as a man and twice as wide. Banana cream. Custard. Lemon meringue. Maker, there was even triple chocolate cream with bits of coco bits on top.
There could be only one thing to do with a storage hoard of pies and a stash of convenient lyrium bottles. The plan was simplicity itself. Spike the pies, serve them upstairs, and watch the magical freak storm blow out before you could even call afternoon tea. Lyrium had the effect of boosting a mages' magical abilities, and an unexpected dose, in the form of a post-luncheon treat, would be just the thing to ignite a magical ruckus across the dorms. It would be his most ambitious prank yet. The Maker must had smiled on Jowan when he sent that templar to Denerim on an emergency errand for the Senior Enchanter's pills.
Jowan's hand trembled only just slightly as he gazed at the scene of what was destined to become his legacy. Slowly, he uncorked the first lyrium bottle and was just about to pour when a shaky voice interrupted him from behind:
"S - s- stop whatever y - you're doing, you v -v - v - vile piemaker!"
Jowan turned around. Standing in the doorway was the gangly form of his chief rival, Ereb Amell, a stuttering nuisance and fellow apprentice at the tower. Much more disconcerting was the tall, muscular templar who stood next to him; who did not seem in the least bit ill from lyrium withdrawl.
"Piemaker?" Jowan raised an eyebrow at Ereb, who had both hands clapped to his cheeks as if he, too, could not believe what he had just said. "That the best you can do?"
Cullen pushed the younger man aside, taking control of the situation. "My vials. Back. Now, apprentice," he growled.
Jowan shrugged, "I don't know what you're talking about."
"You're holding it in your hand!"
Jowan raised his hand still holding a large bundle of the dried roots. "This? Oh, no good ser knight. That's just a bundle of faggots, you see." He grinned cheekily.
Cullen closed the distance between them in three steps, his arm grabbing Jowan's other hand and slamming it onto the table. A few pies were shaken loose from their formation fell with a sad splat. The blue vial of lyrium clinked to the floor.
"THAT hand," said Cullen in a low, dark voice. Jowan's grin only grew wider, despite the pain tearing up his arm.
He wasted no more time bantering words with the templar. Jowan's knee was aimed straight for the templar's groin even as he swung a tin full of pie at the templar's face. Cullen dodged, his hand still on Jowan's arm, and pulled the apprentice mage forward and off balance, slamming Jowan's body down against the table and twisting his arm behind his back. Pies scattered everywhere.
"You forget that we train for this," Cullen snarled, pinning the mage to the table with his greater weight.
"So do we," muttered Jowan, and finished with the incantation for the disorientation spell he had been holding. He felt the pressure lessen as the templar's arm went slack. Jowan turned, gathering two more pie tins as he did so, and tried to hit Cullen in the face with both.
Cullen backed away, the sudden weakness in his knees causing him to stumble. His retreat avoided the majority of the creamy fallout, though the flying custard still landed all across the front of his tunic. Unbalanced, he careened into the side of a makeshift brick oven and his weight forced the sides to buckle, listing dangerously. Cullen shook his head and tried to focus on the other man, but Jowan's shape weaved in and out of his vision.
Jowan grabbed a sack of flour from the ground and heaved, the bag colliding with a satisfying smack on the templar's chin. Both Cullen and the makeshift oven tumbled. The larger man flailed, his hand catching on a corner of the burlap sack, and the sound of tearing rent the air as clouds of flour billowed upwards. Jowan laughed and immediately regretted it as he started choking on the flour that poured down his throat. Cullen lunged blindly towards the sound and grinned as he felt his fist connect with Jowan's jaw.
Jowan crashed into the pie table and grabbed at the closest thing to hand: another pie. He picked up what might have been a lemon meringue and upended it in the direction he thought Cullen was in. Cream flew through the flour clouds and the tin grazed Cullen's forehead as he staggered towards Jowan. Cullen's hands clenched around dusty robes and he pulled, but the fabric gave way in his hand. Cullen cursed as he tossed Jowan's useless robe away and groped for the direction the apprentice mage had fled in.
Jowan, meanwhile, was busy tearing through the remaining flour burlap sacks with a dull knife. The more flour he could put into the air, the better his chances of escaping unnoticed. He tossed handfuls of flour upwards, chanting what he knew of a storm spell as he did so. The effect was far less spectacular than the full blizzards that senior mages could summon, but the draft gradually built momentum as it caught up more and more of the dust and blossomed into a cloud covering the room.
Outside, the mad, white clouds spilled from the room out into the hall where Ereb was still standing in the doorway. He could hear the sounds of Cullen and Jowan struggling, but the two figures were lost to him in the flurry of flour.
"I daresay, are you alright in there?" Ereb asked anxiously, not sure what else to do. "Should I fetch someone?"
Cullen growled and ignored the voice outside. Instead, he closed his eyes and concentrated on identifying the direction of Jowan's chanting. The cream and custard from the pies was sliding in clammy streaks down his body. He fumbled and felt his way along the wall slowly, testing each step with his foot before moving forward.
"Ouch!" Shouted Jowan as Cullen's boots kicked him in the ribs, and clapped his hand to his mouth as he realized that he had given himself away. Cullen's arm was around his throat in an instant, dragging him up. "You p-pompous prick," Jowan coughed, straining to pull the stronger man's arm off his neck.
"Cretin," Cullen returned, cuffing Jowan on the head. He tried to drag the apprentice bodily towards the exit, but stopped when he felt the cold prickling of metal aimed at his abdomen.
"Give me your tunic," Jowan said, and pressed his blade towards Cullen. It wasn't very sharp and would hardly do any damage, but he was counting on the clouds of dust to conceal the weapon's inefficiency from the templar. For a moment he was afraid the templar would refuse. But then, slowly, the man removed his arm and Jowan heard the rustling sound of the tunic being removed. Idiots. They're always so honest, thought Jowan.
Jowan did not hesitate. He lobbed one last pie as Cullen pulled the shirt over his over eyes, and followed through with a firm push which sent the templar toppling.
"See ya, pond sucker!" Snarked Jowan as he bounded out into the hallway and nearly crashed into the little elf girl and her overly erect cake. "Get a room already!" He grimaced, and shoved her indiscriminately in Ereb's general direction.
Jowan ran up the stairs two steps at a time, bits of flour and custard and cream shedding behind him. He nearly ran into Oto, too, coming down the stairs and only narrowly missed her by stopping himself against a wall.
"Oto!" Jowan yelled again, then looked behind him and thought quickly. He grabbed his friend by the waist and twirled her about to face the steps behind him. "Wait here, I have a surprise for you!"
"Whaaa?" said Oto, a little confused by the amount of batter and chocolate pudding covering Jowan's half naked body. But she didn't have time for more than half a word before Jowan's fleeing back disappeared up the stairs.
"Watch out!" Shouted Cullen, who came bounding up the steps a moment later. Too late for Oto to move out of the way. The two collided in a squishy mess of cream and custard, his lips pressing into hers as their faces met with a surprise.
"Oh..." whispered Oto, clinging tightly to the cream covered Cullen. She gave his cheek an experimental lick. Cullen's face flushed red as beetroot and he stumbled backwards, nearly falling. Oto's weight threatened to tilt them back down the stairs and he had no choice but to throw his arms around her waist and press his body against hers to balance them both. A rich, whipped dairy-covered kiss was his reward, and he found himself the very stunned recipient of a warm and urgent tongue trying to worm its way down his throat.
Cullen pried his face away from Oto's, his skin flushed and fevered from the ardent contact. Oto grabbed at the side of his belt as he tried to pull away, threatening to pull it off entirely.
"He's getting away!" yelled Cullen, as he tried to crawl up the stairs after Jowan.
"You're telling me!" shouted Oto as she tightened her grip and used her free hand to wrap around the templar's bare waist.
"What are you doing?" said Cullen as her hands crawled along his abdomen.
"Enjoying the moment," grinned Oto, and launched herself at her victim with a debilitating kiss. To his great credit, Cullen whimpered only slightly as she came.
A Recipe for Cake: Kylla
She should have suspected something when Jowan volunteered to clean the kitchens, but her mind was elsewhere at the time. She could have suspected something when she came back, feet dragging even after some time spent pondering life and her role within the tower on the Tower's second balcony floor; but again, her heart was elsewhere at the time.
There was much about Oto to be envied, thought Kylla as she carried her cake back downstairs, resolving to store it in the cellar until further use could be made of it. Her passion was frequently infectious, and her devil-may-care attitude was often a source of comfort and inspiration to the fellow apprentices. Oto had a good heart, too, even if she didn't always follow rules. And there was nothing wrong with Ereb loving an older woman. It was only natural to be drawn towards Oto's vivaciousness and lust for life. Her laughter drew crowds and her personality was such that even the most miserly sometimes felt generous in her ebullient presence.
And yet… and yet. Kylla felt terror clutch her heart as if she was on the verge of something. As if a gaping chasm yawned before her and she would tumble into the emptiness and plummet forever in inky darkness.
She shuddered slightly at the thought and pushed it away. There would be plenty of time for nightmares later, in the night, when everyone else had gone to bed. For now, she focused on finding a reason to be happy for Ereb and his birthday celebration.
So fixed was she on this thought that she nearly didn't see Ereb himself standing there as she stepped down from the last step and paused in shock to see the wide, billowing clouds of dust pouring from the kitchen.
"Blessings of the Maker," Kylla murmured, and at that moment, Jowan came tearing out of the room, shirtless and covered in cream and bits of pie crust, his hair and eyes wild while his face was contorted in an ugly grin.
"Get a room!" Shouted Jowan, and pushed Kylla, cake and all, straight towards Ereb. The collision catapulted the cake point-first towards Ereb's face, and Kylla stared in dismay as the product of her hours of work crumbled at the impact.
"Oh," she said, biting her lip. "Oh, Ereb! Oh… Please don't marry Oto!" She blurted, and then covered her mouth, embarrassed by the sudden outburst.
Ereb sputtered, bits of spongy cake and cream flying from his mouth. "M-m-marry me?" He squealed, and then covered his mouth with both hands in the same manner.
At that moment, Cullen appeared, his red hair covered in cream and his naked torso covered in custard, flying out of the room and up the stairs.
"Uhm," said Ereb, and looked sheepishly at Kylla.
"Ah," said Kylla, and clung to her blue cake platter as if it were a shield.
Simultaneously, both asked: "Wh – what was that about marrying – ? Oh, I'm sorry, please, you firs – I mean, I – "
At the same time, both fell silent and shuffled their feet awkwardly.
Kylla broke the tension first by laughing, clear and sweet, and an image of silver water came to Ereb's mind. In that moment, standing there with cake all over his robes and face, staring into her smiling eyes, the events of the rest of the day seemed distant and far away. Ereb allowed himself to grin, which became a smile, which grew to laughter as he sat beside her.
Unselfconsciously, he reached out with a finger out to wipe a dollop of cream from her nose. As his finger crossed her cheek, Kylla blushed, the color spreading like a pastel dawn across white clouds, and without warning, Ereb's breath caught in his throat. In his imagination his fingers continued, tracing the delicate line of her jaw until he reached her chin, his finger slowly parting pink lips until she smiled, took his hand into her own, and invited his finger into her mouth with slow, deliberate licks. Ereb gulped, and nearly swallowed his tongue.
"E-Ereb?" asked Kylla in concern as her best friend began choking suddenly. He had gone from looking thoughtful to gasping for breath in mere seconds. "Ereb!" She said again and moved towards him, frantically alternating between rubbing down the front of his chest and patting his back, which only seemed to make the coughing fit worse.
"Brrzzpt?" Came an irritated response, and both Ereb and Kylla paused just long enough to see Ashes the fire salamander, tired of the noise and ruckus and the ruined remains of his den, appear in the doorway.
Ashes swung his head about, nostril flaring, and sneezed.
Afterwards, many in the Tower speculated that the explosion may have had magical origins in the old, neglected cellars, which in bygone times were used for storage of arcane artifacts and items of dangerous potential. Still others claimed it was Andraste's will, and that Armageddon would soon come upon the mages and a blight upon the earth. Only a few shook their heads sagely and commented on the large surface area of many tiny particles and the potential for creating an explosive suspension environment when you take into consideration the low oxidization threshold. All agreed that it truly was a very impressive blast, and the Circle of Magi spent a full eight months putting the gaping wound in their tower back together.
A Recipe for Cake: Anders
The giant breach in the wall beckoned, twinkling with the light of freedom. Anders, with his pack slung over his shoulder and a jaunty tune in his mouth, paused for a moment at the opening and took a quick look back. Panicked apprentices were screaming through the tower's hallways, followed by harried enchanters trying to get their classes back in order. The explosion shook the entire island that Kinloch Hold stood upon, and the smoke still floated like sheets of black silk into the sky. It was a glorious setting for a daring escape.
"Is - is it safe, yet?" Mumbled a voice from somewhere by his waist. Anders raised his eyebrows, unaware that anyone else had dared to approach the site so soon.
"Godwin?" He asked, a bit taken aback as he realized the voice came from a remarkably intact barrel sitting precariously at the base of the hole. Two slits for eyes peered at him from the darkness. "Is that a salt barrel?"
"I was hiding from the Chanters in the kit - kitchen," Godwin mumbled, his voice echoing slightly as it rolled around inside the barrel. "I took an awful bump."
"I'll say. Were you there for the explosion, then?"
"Is that what it was? I was having a lovely nap before that all happened."
Anders looked up again as a small bundle of burning pages caught his eye, the sheets apparently caught in a downward draft that brought them blossoming downwards in a slow, circular arc. He reached out and carefully plucked a page as it drifted by.
"What is it?" Godwin asked.
"It's... it says it's a recipe for cake."
Anders stared at the illustration for a bit, which seemed to have little to do with baking and a lot to do with the art of lacing corsets.
"Maybe we should leave it alone," said Godwin. "We don't know where it's been."
"I think... that would be wise," agreed Anders, though he was not quite certain why. He thought for a moment, fingering the sooty surface of the paper, then folded it into a little boat and placed it in the water. With a gentle nudge from his boot, he sent it on its way. Silently, the two watched the small craft sail into the murky distance of Lake Calenhead.