Gwen leaned back into her chair and raised her arms until she felt a satisfying crack.
“Hey Rin pass me Enchanter Greenwich's book on desire demons please.”
With a huff the tiny fairy lugged the book over, dropping it on the table before perching herself on top of Gwen’s head.
“Hey don’t you think it’s about time you went to bed? You’ve been at this for a while.”
“If I didn’t know any better Rin, I’d say you were scared of someone catching me past curfew.”
“Well if they finally got sick of your antics and made you tranquil, I’d be hard pressed to find some other person who I’d find half as interesting to talk too. Or who could actually see me, for that matter.”
“Aww you make me feel so special.” Gwen said as maidenly as she could.
“You are special to me, stupid.” Despite the insult Gwen knew Rin meant what she said. Rin had told her that after she was no longer satisfied with merely observing humans and the like, that she spent decades searching for one she could actually communicate with.
“I’ll head to bed soon; I just want to do a little more research. If the rumors are true my Harrowing will be in a couple of days.” While Gwen was fairly confident in the many aspects of magic, not knowing the exact details of what takes place during the test was more than enough to put her on edge.
“All that research won’t do you any good if you fall asleep in the middle of the test.” Rin pushed herself off and was now floating in front of Gwen’s face. “So, Go. To. Bed.” Gwen scrunched her nose as Rin poked it while emphasizing each word.
“No buts! Go!”
“Alright, no need to be so pushy.” Gwen couldn’t help but smile any time Rin started acting like a mother. It felt nice since she has almost no memory of her mother. But she’d never admit that to Rin though, her ego was big enough as it is.
After waiting for Rin to return several books to the top shelf and a brief argument explaining that if she could fly, she would have returned them, Gwen left the library and the two started silently making their way back to the dorms.
With the all clear from Rin, Gwen scurried past the last pair of patrolling templar and silently opened the dorm door and snuck into bed while trying not to wake the other apprentices. After trying to make as little noise as possible switching into her sleepwear, Gwen found she was still too antsy to fall asleep.
“Hey Rin tell me a story.” Gwen whispered.
“What are you a child? Go to sleep.” Rin responded from her spot on the potted plant hanging from the bedpost.
“Fine I have one for you.” Rin said with a huff, she knew she shouldn't keep spoiling her but the sooner Gwen got to sleep, the sooner she could go to sleep. “It's called The Blind Girl and the Songbird.”
“Once upon a time there was a small bird who loved to sing. It would sing to its mother every day, happy of the praise it would get. One day while resting in their nest, rustling from down below caught their attention. Looking over the edge the young bird asked what were those creatures walking below, to which the mother replied humans. She was told to avoid them for they sought only to steal and harm the denizens of the forest in which they lived.
When its mother left to find food and twigs one day, the songbird heard singing coming from the forest floor. Curious to what was singing, it decided to fly down to find the source. She soon found a woman gathering elf root while singing to herself. Forgetting her mother's warning, she decided to sing along with the woman, copying her song.
From then on, every time the songbird heard the woman sing, it would fly down and sing along with her. Deciding it wanted to spend more time with the woman it decided to hope on her shoulder and sing with her until she reached the woman’s home.
When the mother returned to an empty nest, she grew more concerned the longer time went on. Noticing rustling in a small bush, she flew down hoping to find her daughter stuffing her beak with berries. As soon as she landed on the ground, a massive dog stuck its head out from the bush. Before she could react, the beast lunged forward swallowing the mother whole.
As soon as the woman and the songbird reached her home, the bird unfurled its wings getting ready to take off before the woman grabbed the bird off her shoulder. Shocked and scared the bird started calling for its mother, a mother who would not come.
Placed in a metal cage on the windowsill, and the feathers on its wings clipped the bird had no chance to escape, the only thing the bird could do was sing.
As the days turned to weeks which turned to years, the bird had begun to noticed the woman could no longer sing as well as she used to.
Every time the woman heard the bird sing, she would appear to become angrier and angrier until one day she could no longer stand it. Convinced the bird was mocking her she grabbed the bird out of the cage, clipped its wings one last time and took her to the middle of the forest leaving her there alone.
Happy to be back in the forest the bird tried returning to the skies only to be met with failure. Scared and alone the bird tried singing, hoping its mother would hear it and come to the rescue. But no matter how much she sang no help came.
Convinced she was going to die the bird let out a gentle weep, wishing she would have listened to her mother all those years ago. A noise behind her had caught her attention, closing her eyes she started singing a low tune, waiting for whatever was behind her to kill her.
All of a sudden, she felt a pair of hand scoop her up and lift her. Scared that the woman had returned the bird tried flapping its wings hoping to fly away, but was once again met with failure.
“Poor little thing, are you alright?” Said the unfamiliar voice.
Surprised at the strange voice the bird turned to see a young girl with bandages wrapped around her eyes. The young girl started gentle petting the animal discovering it was indeed a bird, but felt no obvious injuries explaining why the bird could not fly.
“My uncle knows a great many things, perhaps he could help you.” The young girl said and started slowly making her way out of the forest, unaware at how scared the bird truly was.
After being scolded for wandering around the forest alone, the uncle explained that the bird’s wings had been cut and could not fly until they grew back. Satisfied knowing the bird was going to be alright the girl returned to her room and placed the bird in a makeshift birdhouse on the side of her bed.
“Lucky for you little one your feathers will grow back and you can return back to the skies where you belong.”
As the time went on the bird noticed that the young girl could not see and felt a strange kinship, as she could not fly.
One day after being inspected by the uncle the bird turned to see the young girl with a smile bigger than she had ever seen on the girl. She was then gently grabbed by the girl and was taken to the forest where the two had met some time ago. The memories of the first woman came flooding back and she was convinced she would be abandoned again.
“Well little one it's time to spread your wings and reclaim the skies once more.” The young girl said raising the bird up above her head. “Don’t be afraid I’ll be here to catch you if you fall.”
Looking down to see the young girl still smiling, the young bird decided it no longer had to be afraid. Unfurling its wings, it leapt from the girl's hand and flew, just like it had done with its mother all those years ago. Happy with is new found freedom, the bird landed in the girl’s hand once again and sang her a song as thanks.
“What a lovely song, I was afraid you’d never sing again.” The girl said, placing the bird on a nearby branch.
The bird hadn’t realized the first time they met was also the last time she sang. Then why was the girl so kind despite the fact she didn’t sing for her.
“Goodbye little one.” After a small pat on the head the girl turned and started making her way back home. As soon as she exited the forest, she felt something plop down on top of her head. Before she could even react, she heard a familiar melody. Reaching her hands up she felt the bird jump into her hands.
“So little one I take it you want to live with me huh?” The bird gave her a confirmation chirp which made the young girl laugh. “Well I suppose proper introductions are in order then, my name is Gwynevere, what’s yours?
As far as the bird new it didn't have a name so it gave a low chirp in response.
“I suppose you couldn’t tell me even if you had one. How about I give you one? How does that sound?” The bird jumped around and started chirping loudly in her hands. The young girl laughed again, which the bird found she enjoyed hearing.
“Alright then, how about Le...”
Gentle snoring distracted Rin from her story, and she found Gwen sleeping soundly in her bed.
“Well I suppose you won’t remember this story when you wake up, so there was no harm in letting you experience it a bit early.” She said to a slumbering Gwen. “Sleep well.”
Sticking her head inside the class room, Gwen scanned the room until she sensed her mark talking with the professor.
“Neria! Lunch!” Gwen yelled, maybe a bit too loud.
“Miss Amell need I remind you that this is still a class room and you should conduct yourself with a modicum of restraint.” Came a stern response.
“My sincerest apologies Enchanter Harrill.”
“Yes, I hardly doubt that. Thank you for your help today Miss Surana, enjoy your lunch.” He paused before shooting a glare at Gwen. “As difficult as it appears it may be.”
“I’m happy to have been able to help. See you tomorrow.” Neria gave a quick bow before joining Gwen at the door.
“What took you so long? I’m starving.” Gwen whined as she grabbed onto Neria’s arm.
“Quit your complaining, I have no idea how Rin puts up with only having you to talk to.” She jested as she led them to the dining hall.
“If I could only tell you girl.” Rin quipped from her usual spot atop Gwen.
Gwen told her about Rin several years back and although she found it hard to believe at first, Gwen wasn’t the type to come up with tall tales just for laughs. There are also many different types of creatures out there, so it would only be natural that there would be some that couldn’t be perceived normally. But then again normal wouldn’t be a word she would use to describe Gwen.
Before they reached their destination however, they were stopped by Templar Cullen. He gave Neria a quick nod before turning his attention to Gwen and clearing his throat.
“H-hello Amell.” They both knew he was had a crush on Gwen, but they both didn’t know how to let him down easy so they decided ignoring his obvious fumbles was the kinder thing to do.
“Good afternoon Cullen, how may we help you today.”
“It’s time. If you would follow me please.”
“Just my luck it would happen right before lunch huh.” Gwen mused as she squeezed Neria’s arm tighter.
Reaching around with her other arm, Neria hugged Gwen hoping to relieve some of her nervousness. “You’re the best apprentice I know, and soon you’ll be the best mage I know.”
“Thanks, Neria.” Gwen returned the embrace before turning to Cullen. “I’m ready.”
Cullen straightened his back and took a deep breath. “If you’d like you could grab onto my arm as I escort you to the chamber.” Cullen’s face had turned such a bright shade of red that Neria was certain it could cut right through Gwen’s eye mask and go directly into her brain.
Gwen didn’t miss a beat, tapping his vambrace. “That won’t be necessary Cullen, lead the way.”
“Of course, follow me.” Cullen quickly turned on his heels and started walking down the hall.
After a giggle and another quick hug. Gwen followed him, steeling herself as she walked into the unknown.”
After following Cullen into an unknown part of the tower, Gwen found herself in a room with several people who she recognized as First Enchanter Irving, Knight-Commander Greagoir, and several other templar. There also appeared to be a large sum of lyrium, more than she had ever felt before.
Irving spoke first. “Greetings Gwen, as you may have guessed the time for you to undergo your Harrowing has arrived. In order to become a full-fledged Mage within the Circle, we will send you into the Fade with lyrium where you will come face-to-face with a demon, armed with nothing but your wits.” Irving took a deep breath. “And if you are unable to overcome this trial...”
“We will do our duty Amell, and you will be killed.” Knight-Commander Greagoir interjected.
“Killed...” Gwen repeated to herself.
“Unless you wish to undergo Tranquility, but tell me Gwen is losing all your magic an option? I have faith in you.” Irving reassured her
“As do I.” Rin spoke, trying to reassure her. “And as does Neria.”
Gwen regained her confidence knowing so many people believed in her. She then took a step forward towards the source of the lyrium.
“Remember Gwen though the spirits may rule the Fade, your own will is real.”
“The apprentice must go through the test alone First Enchanter.” Interrupted Greagoir. “You are ready.”
With a nod she stepped forward reaching her hand out towards the lyrium, feeling the power overwhelm her. She heard Rin wish her luck one last time before losing consciousness.