Tap, tap, tap, tap.
Her steps echoed in the long corridor, despite her sandals being made of silk and not the steel boots the Templars wore. It was colder than usual and she held on to the sleeves of her robe to try to keep her hands warm.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
She kept walking, but she could hear him running behind her, his steps echoing with hers until he caught up with her; her oldest friend, her only family, her brother. He placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Do you realize what you are asking, Jowan?"
Her voice came out in a hiss but she wanted nothing more than to shout at him, grab him by the shoulders and shake him. The only things stopping her were the Templars standing nearby, silent and unmoving like heavily armoured statues. Jowan looked at her sadly.
"I need your help." She shook her head. "Please."
She continued to walk. She did not know where she was headed; she only wanted to be left alone. In the Circle that was almost impossible; every room had someone in it and in the halls Templars were watching their every movement with careful intensity. Even her new quarters was shared with three other mages. All she wanted to do was to scream.
"You can't abandon me."
She stopped again, but this time she did not look at him. Instead her eyes landed on a lone helmless Templar standing outside her quarters.
He looked at her and she saw a question in his amber eyes, a scowl in his features.
What's going on?
All she wanted at that moment was to be in his arms and tell him everything, but they would never be alone. They would never have the life together they dreamed of because despite the kisses and words of love they shared in secret, he would always be a Templar at heart, just as she would always be a mage. You could never run away from what was in your blood, unless you were made Tranquil... or killed.
"What would you do if you managed with your plan?" she whispered as she turned her gaze to her friend.
Jowan shrugged; it was obvious that he had not planned that far ahead.
"Perhaps we could go to Orlais, live on a farm."
She looked at him in disbelief and saw hints of a nervous smile on his lips.
"And if you become an abomination?"
It was a question she had to ask as the threat was something every mage had to think about. The Chantry and its Templars were harsh toward their kind, but not even the bitterest mage could deny the whisperings of the demons looming in the shadows, ready to strike at the first sign of weakness. She began to walk again and Jowan followed her into the library where they thankfully managed to find an empty corner.
"I won't become an abomination. I will stop using magic."
"You are a mage, Jowan. You know as well as I do that demons will always seek you out no matter how much you try to run away from your magic," she snapped before she realised that she had spoken more loudly than intended.
She licked her lips nervously and looked out over the room quickly. An elf was sat by one of the desks in the middle of the library, so heavily engrossed in the tome he was reading that his nose almost touched the parchment. On the other side of the room a Tranquil mage was standing by one of the bookcases, sorting out its books with a blank expression on her face. Fortunately there was not a Templar in sight. She looked back at Jowan. His eyes were filled with sadness and desperation and he moved closer to her, his voiced coming out in a hushed whisper.
"What is the alternative? To let them make me Tranquil? I would rather die than become one of those soulless minions."
He placed a hand on the bookcase behind him and Erin realised that he was shaking. She looked away, refusing to let herself be affected. It was not a small thing they had asked of her, and she had spent the entire night twisting and turning, trying to make sense of it all. She had never felt so conflicted in her entire life.
"If you will not help me, think of Lily. How do you think she will feel when she sees me walking around like a shell? Erin, she loves me."
"What if it was you and him?"
She stared at him, her mouth suddenly dry. He knows? He only shook his head with a quiet laugh.
"What, you thought you had managed to keep it a secret for so long? Everyone knows Cullen is in love with you, and you haven't exactly been discreet yourself."
She swallowed, wondering who "everyone" was. Did Irving know? Did Greagoir know?
"So tell me Erin, what would you do if you were in my position?"
She suddenly felt irritated at his question and glared darkly at him.
"I have already passed my Harrowing. Chantry law dictates that a harrowed mage cannot be made Tran-"
"Maker's breath will you stop being so-" Jowan sighed in frustration before he took a deep breath and looked at her. "Just imagine yourself being threatened with the Rite of Tranquility."
She scowled at him before she finally resigned and turned her attention back to the Tranquil sorting the books. What if I was in Jowan's shoes? What if I was being turned into one of them?
The Tranquil turned her head then and looked at Erin. Even from where she was stood, Erin could see that her eyes were a deep shade of blue, and even though the Tranquil have no emotions to speak of, she thought she saw sadness in them.
Then she saw herself standing there with the mark of the Chantry star burned onto her forehead. She saw Cullen standing in front of her, trying to bring out emotions that were long gone. His eyes were marked with sadness and she watched him plead with her over and over again. Would he eventually become angry? Bitter? Would he get into trouble and be sent away or would he in the end just, give up? She felt her heart squeeze at the thought, and suddenly felt slightly ill.
She remembered the first time he had professed his feelings to her and the warmth that had covered her body like a blanket after their first kiss. She loved him, but Tranquility would have stripped all of that away from them. She realised that their relationship was just as fragile as Jowan and Lily's was, but out of all the things that threatened their relationship, Tranquility was not one of them.
You are an idiot.
"Fine, I'll help," she whispered.
"Thank you, thank you."
She tore her eyes away from the Tranquil, looking back at Jowan, and she could almost see the heavy stone lift off his shoulders. They left the library and she looked back at Cullen who was still standing guard outside her quarters.
Love was a weakness, but if she had to choose between that and Tranquility, the choice was easy to her.