Since arriving in Haven, I have become accustomed to constant battle wounds, a lack of privacy and whispered words. None of these things should be the norm for a Lady, even if that Lady is from Ostwick.
I knew growing up that my training as a Warrior may some day land me in the Templar Order, but I never expected my introduction to turn out so… bizarre. My family needed to know what was to become of the Chantry, and all those involved. With so many of my family intrinsically tied to each aspect, they sent me to the Divine’s Conclave.
An explosion rocked the gathering, killing its attendees. Yet, I survived.
After my fall from the Fade, I met my first of the Order. Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast led me to the site of the explosion. She demanded I fix what had split the sky. I knew nothing, save the fact that I now had a glowing green mark on my hand. Yet, she was convinced I had something to do with it all.
The second of the Order, Commander Cullen, was awaiting us just outside the gates to the temple. He did not accuse or welcome me in any way but he seemed to think I could, or would, help. I found his lack of accusation intriguing, to say the least.
After closing the Breach, he welcomed me to the fold with open arms.
His charm and easy demeanor didn’t last. I soon found he was a force to be reckoned with. His battle prowess unmatched. His keen understanding of the world around him amazed and confounded me. The way he took control of every situation left me in a fog of self doubt. How could a man with such knowledge and power look to someone as untested, as soft, as myself for guidance? Just because some had seen me as “touched” by the Divine, didn’t make it true.
Still, knowing his life could have been my future made me keen to prove myself. Cassandra thrust me to the forefront of every fray, every diplomatic skirmish. I led us into the Hinterlands and helped save the refugees. I confronted the Chantry. I battled rogue mages and templars. I returned and found decisions, that should have been made by these two, left to me. I sent spies and war bands out to do the work of the new Inquisition. I looked to them both and tried my best to make decisions as I thought they would.
Which is why I now stand in my little cabin on the outskirts of Haven, battle worn and bruised. Healer Adan gave me some poultices and bandages. I have been fighting them for a good quarter-hour. My fingers are coated in the slick salve, causing the bandages to slip from my fingers every time I have it just tight enough to be of comfort. I am about to give up when the door to my cabin opens.
I turn to face Commander Cullen.
“We have reports…” His face lifts to mine. His cheeks begin to burn with a charming blush. It spreads down his neck before he recovers himself. “Forgive me, Herald. I will come back.” He turns to leave.
“No, wait.” I take the few steps to him. Gripping his arm I pull him back into the room. I close the door behind us. “I have been fighting these bandages for quite some time. Help me get them tight.”
His eyes fall to my breasts and then quickly dart away.
“Please,” I beg of him.
He steps forward, removing his gloves.
I can tell he is nervous. Surely, he’s done this before. There are plenty of female Templars.
“I must ask,” he pauses, trying to decide how best to approach me, “could Healer Adan not do this?”
I laugh, “Healer Adan had his hands full. I told him I could do it myself. Apparently, I was wrong.” His half smile makes my heart jump in my chest.
Before he reaches for the bandages I still have hold of, his eyes meet mine. They hold such uncertainty.
“I can ask someone else if this makes you uncomfortable.” I reach for his hand and when they touch he takes in a deep breath.
“No, that’s alright. I can do this.” He states, trying to convince himself more than me.
His name falling from my lips causes him to hesitate again. He looks to our hands, realizing I still have hold of his. “That’s the first time you’ve said my name.”
Oh, so it is.
I allow his hand to slip from mine and he rewards me with a half smile. He reaches for the bandages, taking the end I have yet to secure. The feel of his calloused fingers brushing along my ribs, as he places a stabilizing hand on my other side, causes me to inhale sharply.
“I’m sorry. Did I hurt you? I didn’t mean…”
I hold my hand up to stop his flowing apology. “No, not pain. It’s good though… Distracting.”
“Oh… Well good… That’s good.” He pulls the bandage tight, slowly moving his opposite hand. It’s not a caress.
I can tell he’s doing it to keep the distraction going. “Was there something you wished to tell me, Commander?”
“Ahh, yes. As you know, the templars are gathering at Therinfall Redoubt. I received word that there are strange things occurring within the Order. Not all of the templars in attendance agree with the Lord Seeker’s current course of action. I was hoping to sway your mind to seek them out. Find out what is happening. They are our best hope. I know Leliana and Josephine would have you believe the best defense against magic is more magic. I do not believe that to be true. I know it may seem that I am being biased, and that may be, but I have seen both sides of this conflict. I honestly don’t think more magic is the answer.” He pauses.
“You don’t think the mages would know how best to fix this?” I ask sincerely.
“No. I have seen what magic and templars can do. I know this leaves Tevintar on our doorstep, and that issue shouldn’t be overlooked, but I can’t help but think… If mages caused this… I was there, in Kirkwall, when the Mage Rebellion began. I was in the Circle Tower in Ferelden.” He pulls his hands away from me, rubbing them together as he steps a few paces back.
“If you were in Kirkwall, then you also saw how mistreated the mages were there. I am from the Free Marches, Cullen. It was no secret.” The shame that crosses his brow and colors his eyes gives me pause. “I’m sorry… It’s the truth.”
Anger flashes through him and he turns to the door. “I know that blood mages ran rampant through our streets. I know that time and again, rebellion was quelled, even if just so.”
Before he reaches for the handle, I take his hand in mine. “And yet, you stood by the Champion’s side in the end. You knew the templars were wrong. That’s why you are here. I didn’t mean to upset you. I am just trying to make the best decision for all involved. I have no hidden love for mages, but I don’t outright dislike them as so many seem to. I know power can corrupt, but that’s true regardless of magical ability. We have a chance to see Thedas changed. A better world for all. Is that not the goal here? Did I misinterpret our intent?”
He sighs. “No, you are right.” He places his hand over mine. “Forgive me. It has been difficult for me since leaving Kirkwall.”
Coming up on my toes, I place a kiss on his cheek. “Cullen, I will help you through this. There is no need to fear what is to come. If we need the mages, we will handle it. But I will consider going after the templars. I need some time to decide the best course of action. All of you have given me so much to think about.”
His smile is genuine and he returns the kiss. “Thank you.”