There was no way he was going to let an unchecked mage run the city of Kirkwall. Tatiana Hawke was Kirkwall's most influential noble and a formidable woman in her own right, but she still had the curse of the Maker. Magic was the curse that ruined heaven, blackened the Golden City and made the Maker turn away from his creation, his greatest failure. Cullen believed that ardently. He was a templar with every fiber of his being.
But he knew her to be a good woman and trusted her when she took over the Viscount's seat. Even so, he watched her, scrutinized her, looked for signs of corruption with his ever vigilant eyes. Power had corrupted his last superior so completely it kept him in constant fear and she'd amassed more power than he'd ever thought possible in this city. His templars supported her. After the tyranny of Meredith he could do her no higher honor than to lend his support to her bid for the throne. It made him more careful with her, he knew his hand wouldn't hesitate to strike her down if the day came. He'd wished he'd had such resolve with Meredith.
There was a darker reason that he was here, something he didn't like to admit even to himself. Tatiana was a beautiful woman, and within his reach, more dangerous than her magical talents was the hold they had over him. If he hadn't known better, he'd swear she was a Somniari, a dreamer, controlling his dreams and causing him night after night of delicious anguish. He didn't dare let on how he felt about her, for one thing they agreed on nothing and she'd flaunted her apostate life in front of him before becoming Viscountess.
He knew about her, the lovers she'd had, the loyal friends that trailed behind her without question. They'd kept watch on her and it had seemed like she'd been taunting them, going to the Blooming Rose, escaping their watchful eyes as she trekked to the Wounded Coast, up to the Dalish on Sundermount. She interfered in the holy mission of the templars with such alarming regularity that it was no surprise to see her name in reports of disobedience. But yet, she'd become their leader. It was a strange world indeed.
"Good Morning Cullen." The Viscountess walked past him brazenly wearing mage robes embroidered with the symbol of Kirkwall. He watched her sway as she walked, admired the pull of the robes across her hips.
"Viscountess." He replied tersely. She laughed softly at his formality. She was a menace. A beautiful menace with a laugh like a caress from the Maker's hand.
Tatiana saw Cullen giving her his usual, carefully neutral look as she came in that morning. It was customary for them, she'd say hello and he'd simply nod at her then begin the day of standing over her like some sort of sexy sentinel, watching her as she made her way home after ten or twelve hours of work. He watched her so that she would not become a magister, lose herself to her own power and ruin their civilization. It was wrong, so completely wrong that she wanted him. She sat at her desk, staring down at the work she hadn't put away last night.
Day after day she felt his eyes on her, relentless and steadfast in his devotion to duty, his duty to watch over her. He was a twice-ruined man, once by the blood mages in the Ferelden Circle and by Meredith. Unlike so many in the city, Tatiana didn't hate Meredith. She saw that she was a woman pushed to the edge by fear and poisoned by an ancient malevolent magic. Not that she agreed with her - no it was impossible to be a mage and agree with the person responsible for enforcing the tight bonds that had been clapped around her brethren, but as a leader it was also hard to hate a woman that had witnessed the most awful sides of magic throughout her whole life. She'd reacted as she'd been raised to react in most situations. The Chantry reinforced her fear of magic then put her in charge of mages. It was always going to be difficult for Meredith and without Dumar, it had become impossible.
Cullen was damaged too, every battle served to reinforce his beliefs and dedication to his duties. Maker save her, it was part of what attracted her to him. He had reserves of strength that she admired, physical and mental. He was a survivor and after enduring so much hardship on her own she understood that too. Despite his reservations about her, he never took them out on Carver, never treated her brother as anything but another templar. One look at his handsome, stubbled face and you could see the war he waged internally. She hoped to ease his mind, not add to the worry already taking up too much room.
Seneschal Bran came into the room to give her the list of things they would work on today. He bustled into the room, all self-important stride.
"Cullen." The seneschal greeted her templar keeper, resenting the continued presence of templars in the Keep. After Meredith's attack, he'd tried to expel all of them and reinstate the guardsmen in their old positions. With a mage as Viscount, the guards had been replaced by templars once again when Hawke took office.
"Your Excellency, if you are done staring at your desk, there are some things we need to do today." Bran carefully nettled her, but she'd gotten used to the prickly bastard. She didn't know what she'd do without him.
"I'm sorry Seneschal. Let's get started." She smiled at Bran and he smirked at her. It was as close as he'd come to a true smile.
They were rebuilding Kirkwall, and it felt like every brick had to be approved by her before it could be set down. It was painstaking, the nobles were trying to flee and not pay the levies that were needed for the second rebuilding of Kirkwall in the last few years. At least this time she made sure they were hiring more Ferelden laborers, giving them a chance at better jobs. Nearly a decade after the Blight and things were still grim for Fereldans, both in Kirkwall and in Ferelden.
To say the Viscountess had a difficult job would be an understatement. Ruling was no trifle at any time, but after such a crisis - he couldn't imagine a worse job to have. Cullen could see her straining, doing her best to fit the city back together. She and Seneschal Bran worked long days and he admired her patience in dealing with Bran. Cullen was a man of principle, dedicated to his belief in doing the right thing even if it didn't match what his heart wanted. He saw Bran as little more than a fickle politician, carefully guarding his opinions and thoughts so that he would never be called on to stand up for what he believed. In truth, Cullen and his templars watched Bran almost as much as he watched the Viscountess - but it was a much less gratifying duty.
Varric Tethras strolled into the Office of the Viscount, and Tatiana sighed, remembering that today was the day that the Dwarven Merchant Guild was going to submit their proposals to her for rebuilding commerce. She needed Varric to give her insight on who would actually follow through with their plans - her office would be subsidizing the rebuilding of profitable commercial entities for those that pitched successfully.
"Hawke, I mean Excellency. You haven't been to the Hanged Man in far too long. How are you holding up?" Varric asked upon walking into her office.
The dwarf took in the bags under her eyes, the tightness around her mouth, the general sense of fatigue he got from their fair leader. She was exhausted but trying to hold it off. At least she didn't put a pretense of pretending everything was fine.
"I could use a vacation Varric. Where do you suggest we go?"
"I always say, if you're running away run to someplace where it's sunny. Antiva suit your fancy or is that not far enough?"
"Sunny is good, but too populated."
"I'll have to think some more." Varric sat down at the table next to her in the conference room, ready to take notes on the proposals and offer advice.
Tatiana smiled wearily at her friend, thanking him for his assistance today. She was glad Varric was here, she knew she would miss something crucial without him. She was past exhaustion, truth be told. Her nights were interrupted by terrible dreams, fights she couldn't forget, faces of people she couldn't save, problems that ate at her and demanded her attention long after she left the office. Even though Isabela had gallantly offered to 'bring the fun to her' as the pirate put it, Tatiana was sure that nothing could ease her mind, not even the most skilled worker from the Rose.
When Varric mentioned her tired visage, Cullen looked at Tatiana, inspecting the Viscountess. Her days, their days had gotten longer and the problems were more complex than just putting out the fires now. He longed to wind his fingers in her black hair, let her curl into against his chest, to whisper in her ear that he was here for her. He couldn't, wouldn't give into his base longing for such a woman. Shifting his gaze from her lovely neck, he watched the dwarves parading in the door in their finery. At least there was no threat of magic from them.