I tried to get what little sleep I could. I enjoyed staying up with Alistair and talking to him until dawn since we probably would have sleepless nights, being Grey Wardens and all. It was the only comfort I had after the nightmares. I know I had to get used to it...yet the ones with Tamlen bothered me the most.
It was cold and misty that morning. I felt so filthy. I needed a bath after fighting the abominations in the Circle Tower. Surely the others would be still sleeping and I could have some privacy. I gathered up my towel, soap and a sponge to search for a watering hole. I didn't mind the cold so much since I was used to sleeping outside when I was with the clan.
I found a lake with a waterfall. I stripped off my clothes and left my towel on the shore. Testing the water with my toe, goose pimples formed from my foot to my shoulders already. I walked slowly into the water, getting used to it. Eventually, I dove under the water, wetting my hair. It felt good to get the dirt, sweat and blood off. I felt relaxed. I swam towards the waterfall...surely, I would have a bit of privacy since I was the only one who knew about it. Careful to avoid the slippery rocks, I found a large flat one that I could stand on. Using my soap and sponge, I washed my skin and hair, scrubbing off all the nasty filth. I sung an Elven lullaby that Ashalle used to sing to me as a child, enjoying the resonating echo underneath the waterfall as I rinsed off; the waterfall's mist was cool.
Once I was finished, I dove back under the lake's glassy surface and swam towards shore to dry off. I shook my head, feeling the braids smack my face like tiny whips, I squeezed the excess water out of my hair. URGH! It was so stubborn sometimes! I rose to my feet to dry off...then, I saw him! Alistair, frozen in the bushes, his mouth agape and flushed from his ears to his neck, holding a wineskin.
Startled, he sputtered. "I...sorry...I...I didn't know anyone was here..."
I wrapped my towel around my nakedness, ashamed and shocked. "What...are you doing here, Alistair? Were you spying on me?"
"I...no! No! I went to look for some water...and well...I happened to...find you..."
Clearly he was embarrassed. I suspected he may have seen me bathing. I smirked a little, imagining Ser Templar standing frozen in the bushes, staring at me while I bathed...maybe averting his eyes, then slowly looking back because temptation was too much for him.
"You didn't see anything, did you?" I asked, coyly.
"M-maybe...just a little bit...of bottom...and your...erm...breasts. I-I tried to look away, but...you were..." He rubbed his neck, looking uncomfortable.
"I believe you are blushing, Ser Templar," I teased. "Can't imagine what the revered mother would say if she caught you looking into the sisters' bathhouse."
"I'm sorry, Lillianth. I should've...respected your...privacy. It was terribly rude of me." He lowered his head, ashamed like a scolded child.
"No worries, Alistair," I said with a shrug. "You're a man. I know you're going to look, no matter how many times one tells you not to."
"You're...not mad?" He was surprised.
"Not really. Honestly, haven't you seen a naked woman before?"
"Ah...well..." he stammered, rubbing his neck uncomfortably, averting his eyes with difficulty.
Dear Creators! Maybe he didn't...or maybe he was too embarrassed to talk about it since I was just wearing a towel.
"Maybe we should talk once I have clothes on," I suggested.
"Good idea," he agreed.
"Turn around. And no peeking."
He did so and I dressed quickly, announcing that I was done. He went to get some water to fill his wineskin, hanging it over his shoulder. We sat on the grass near the lake. The silence between us was awkward.
So, how does someone ask a man a question like that? It was obvious he hadn't seen a naked woman before. And the unbelievable amount of blushing and stammering! Yet, there were times he could be suave and seductive, especially when he whispered to me about his moles. The way his voice dropped so low at times. It sounded like velvet when it did that.
"Alistair?" I began.
"Mm?" he responded, sipping his wineskin.
"May I ask a rather...personal question?"
"Of course, Lillianth."
"If you were raised in the Chantry, have you never...?" I asked, unsure of how to put this without making him uncomfortable.
"Neverrr?" he answered, raising an eyebrow with a smile. "Never what? Had a good pair of shoes?"
"You know what I mean, Alistair," I implied. Surely, he had to know what I was talking about.
"Not sure I do, Lillianth," he said, confused, still smirking playfully. "Have I never seen a basilisk? Ate jellied ham? Have I never licked a lamp post in winter?"
"Urgh! Now I know you're teasing me!" I said, frustrated.
"Teasing you, dear Lillianth? Perish the thought!" he exclaimed. Then, with a sly look in his eyes, "Well, tell me, Lillianth: have you ever licked a lamp post in winter?"
How he emphasized his Ls. His hazel eyes twinkled impishly. How his voice dropped. All these alluring qualities in this man! I certainly liked this double meaning as well. Maybe he did know what I was talking about.
"Perhaps," I said coyly.
"'Perhaps'? Not going to tell, are we?" he teased.
"Oh, Ser Templar is so curious of what sins I have committed!" I said with sarcasm. "Aside from the fact you were spying on me in the bushes, you bad boy!"
Alistair scoffed. "That was an accident!"
"Right!" I said, doubtfully. Well, why not? Give the man an answer. I must admit my interest was piqued of how he would respond. Let's see where this goes. "Well, if you're really curious...it was just once."
"And you didn't lose half of your tongue in the process?" He chuckled lightly. "I'm impressed. I guess the Dalish do have a high tolerance for pain."
I figured that's what he was talking about. "You know, that's not what I'm talking about, right?" I said, earnestly.
"Then, what are you talking about?" He looked confused.
"Oh!" he exclaimed. "I must admit no woman has never asked me such a question. Well, I, myself, never had the pleasure...not that I haven't thought about it. But...you know."
"Ohhh!" I said, nodding with understanding. Ser Alistair was a virgin! It certainly explains all his awkwardness. "You never had the chance?"
"Well, living in the Chantry is not exactly the life for rambunctious boys," he said with a shrug. "They taught me to be a gentleman, especially in the presence of beautiful women...such as yourself."
Well, he certainly was, I must admit. The Chantry did such a wonderful job doing so. Yet...was he saying I was beautiful for real? Or was it...
"You're not saying this because you saw me naked?" I said slyly.
"I...yes...no..." He groaned in frustration. "Yes, you're beautiful, Lillianth! You know it! But, being a gentleman, that's not so bad, is it?"
"No, not at all."
"Good. You'd...want a gentleman to court you, right? I-If...you wanted to, right?"
He was just so adorable with his clumsy explanations.
"Good. I'll have to remember that." He cleared his throat, wiping a bit of sweat off his brow. "So, how about you, Lillianth? Have you...?"
"Have I what? Had a good pair of shoes? Sure."
"Well, good. I'd hate for those feet of yours to get cold," he said, amused. "But...have you ever...h-had sex?"
"I've done a thing or two, but no. I've never had sex."
"What do you mean 'done a thing or two'?"
"Let's just say I've...dabbled in the forbidden arts...and no, I don't mean blood magic. I haven't a drop of magic in my blood."
"Ah I see. You've tasted the cake, just not eaten the whole thing?"
"Yes. Most of it was just kissing and heavy petting."
"What's heavy petting?"
Naturally, I explained to him what it was and told him about my past experimentation in my wild youth. So much blushing from Ser Templar! I suppose he was imagining his hands on my breasts. I found myself staring at his hands and I must admit they were perfect. I wouldn't have minded them on me. Oh! Now I'm the one thinking of lustful thoughts about my fellow Grey Warden! Great!
"So...why didn't you?" he asked, more serious.
"The Dalish take relationships very seriously and slowly...so when we find our potential mate, we know them well enough to bond with them."
"In the Dalish culture, it is one of the most sacred and revered event between two lovers."
"So, it's marriage."
"You could say that. I like to think of it more of a very strong and powerful feeling of love between two lovers that they join for life. It is said that when the Dalish bond with their mate, their souls join and both of them see it happen."
"Wow! That sounds beautiful. Have you ever found a mate?"
I sighed. I knew this would come up sooner or later. The memory of me telling Tamlen in the woods that day...how I wished I could've told him right then and there.
Those worry lines appeared on his forehead. "Tamlen...you loved him, didn't you?"
I nodded, brushing away my tears. "Truth be told, Alistair, I never got to tell him how I felt."
"I'm sorry, Lillianth," he said, sympathetic. "That must be awful."
I nodded, wiping away beginnings of tears. "It is. But, he's gone now. It's no use crying over him. He's with the Creators."
"Well, let's get back to camp, Lillianth," Alistair said. "We'd better call upon the Dalish next."
We walked back to camp together in haste and woke our fellow companions to continue on to the Brecilian Forest.
Excerpt from Alistair's Journal
I was thirsty. Pulling on my clothes and grabbing my wineskin, I hoped there was someplace I could find water to quench my thirst. As I walked away from the camp, I could hear rushing of water in the distance. I followed the sound until I got closer to the source. A waterfall and a pool! I was relieved to have found water. I would be thankful to have had a drink.
As I got closer, I could see a form just under the waterfall. I couldn't be so sure...oh! It was a naked woman. Or was it? I couldn't be sure. I had heard legends about wood nymphs who bathed near places like that, but surely...it couldn't be! I moved closer to get a better look, it was...oh Maker's blood and breath! It was Lillianth! She had her back turned to me and was washing her body. I could hear her singing in Elven, which was sounded beautiful. I turned my eyes away, knowing I should respect her privacy...
Sadly I failed to resist temptation. I stared at her, which awakened sensations I had never felt before. My ears and cheeks were burning with both desire and shame.
Never had I seen anything so...perfect. Her physique had some masculine attributes as well as graceful feminine: her arms and legs were slender but had some muscle, the beautiful line carved down the center of her back, her hourglass waist, her bottom firm and round. She turned slightly sideways, lifting her arm and...oh! I saw her breast! It was perfect: the globe was round and white and the nipple stood out like a rosebud.
Horrified and ashamed, I felt myself-well, how can I say it?-Growing hard in my pants.
When I was a lad of twelve living in the Chantry, there were times these embarrassing arousals happening: waking up to it one morning, the boys laughing and pointing at me, complimenting my 'tent'. The time one of the older boys, Wilhelm, whispered dirty things about women to us as we eagerly gathered around to hear at bedtime. The time we sneaked out with Wilhelm so we would spy on some bathing women in a whorehouse through a window: they had beautiful breasts, feminine curves and a patch of hair between their legs, which Wilhelm told me what it was. Though I dare not speak it, being a gentleman.
Not knowing at the time what to do with this arousal that grew in my pants, Wilhelm told me that I should stroke it should it happen again or if I had dirty thoughts, use a balm just in case it becomes uncomfortable. Oh! It felt so good the first time I tried it. I would close my eyes and think of those whores with beautiful breasts and bodies, doing all those lustful things that Wilhem had told me about...and oh! When I felt my release, I was overwhelmed with the pleasure...shuddering and making a sticky mess on the sheets.
There was one time I was caught by one of the sisters and she brought me right to the revered mother, dragging me by the ear. The revered mother was strict, yet understanding. She told me that now and then, I would have unclean thoughts like this, but I had to control myself by thinking of things other than that. My punishment was to clean the cloister floor on my hands and knees, leaving me humiliated and sore. I vowed to never think those thoughts again, never to engage in self-pleasure again!
Well, so much for that! I still engaged in it...just tried to...keep it to a limit.
Seeing Lillianth bathing had brought all of those thoughts back. Maker knows if she caught me all tented in the front! She would think I was a pervert. I forced myself to think of other things, hoping this arousal would go away.
I thought maybe one more look, but she was gone. Then I saw her head bob up from the glassy surface of the pool, her red hair stuck to her face. She swam towards the shore where her towel laid. She stood up and then, I saw her in all of the Maker's glory of what He had graced her. I could've sworn I heard a celestial choir in my mind. She was so perfect and beautiful! Her breasts were adorned with pale pink nipples, her belly flat and smooth with a deep indent for a navel, the soft curves in her hips and the triangle of tangled copper curls between her legs. I was frozen in my spot when I should've ran or turning my eyes away.
She dried her body and wrapped the towel around herself. She looked up and saw me, standing there all gaped-mouth like an codfish. I uttered the first stupid word out of my gob: "Oh!" Still sputtering, I apologized, trying to tell her I had no idea anyone was there.
Crossing her arms over her chest, Lillianth smirked and asked if I saw anything, her green eyes sparkling impishly. I must confess, I wanted to tell her I had seen pretty much everything. I sputtered idiotic sentence fragments that made me look like a fool.
I was burning from my ears to my neck, so full of shame. Surprisingly, she wasn't mad. She just shrugged and said I was a man who was caught in a weak moment. She suggested that we talk more once she had clothes on. I was more than relieved to hear that. After seeing all of that, it made things more awkward with her standing in a towel. I obeyed her wish while she dressed, yet the memory of her was already burned in my mind.
I am such a bad man! Staring at a naked woman while she bathed. I should've gave her privacy. I was already wishing desperately for a mage to put a blinding hex on me for spying on Lillianth. Yet...a mage couldn't blind the mind's eye...
Once she was dressed, we sat and talked. She asked whether I never, trailing off as if to imply something. I wasn't sure what she meant. After joking a bit, I was surprised a woman would ask whether I ever had sex. When I admitted that I hadn't, I was ever glad she didn't make fun of me.
I wondered whether a woman like Lillianth was experienced since she seemed to know a lot. I was surprised myself that she too was a virgin, only experimented with kissing and heavy petting (apparently it involves touching certain body parts below the belt) with a boy from her clan as a adolescent and they were caught by the hahren, the elder of the clan; the poor lad had his hand up her blouse, fondling her breasts! The two of them scolded.
I laughed. Never had I heard such a dirty confession from an untouched woman as well. But oh! Just hearing that story made me want to put my hands on those perfect breasts of Lillianth's...oh Maker's breath! I'm such a pervert!
When I asked why, she told me about how the Dalish choose a mate and bond for life; I guess it meant marriage. Her view was a little different, which seemed to be more pleasing. Marriage certainly wasn't one of love, more about owning land and titles. It was lovely to hear that when two Dalish bond that their souls join, mating for life.
She looked sad when I asked whether she had found a mate. I suppose it was Tamlen...she loved him. She tearfully admitted that she did, but she never had the chance to tell him. How awful! Maybe I shouldn't tell how I felt about her. Maybe it was too soon for her. I would hate to rip open wounds that hadn't healed.
I cared about her very much. But, she was Dalish...and they took things slow, which I was glad to know. All I had to do was be patient with her. Maybe she would eventually...care for me...