“It’s very kind of you to come to see me, Dagna,” said Knight-Commander Cullen as they headed out of the Templar barracks. “I must admit, I’m a bit confused as to why you came to see me. In truth, we’re enemies now.”
Dagna raised her head and stared out at the Gallows’ courtyard for a moment. The Kirkwall Circle, according to statistics taken by the Mages’ Liberation Coalition, was still one of the least populated Circles on Thedas. Even though the Chantry had formally freed the mages from being forced to live in such places five years before, and Circles had instead become places of scholarly pursuits for many forms of knowledge, it seemed that intellectuals gave the Kirkwall Circle a wide berth.
She had heard rumors that the new Viscountess of Kirkwall intended on turning the Kirkwall Circle into a university similar to the ones in the Imperium. Dagna frowned at the thought; she wasn’t sure that changing a name and throwing money at the problem would fix a badly damaged reputation.
“I don’t think of you as my enemy. I couldn’t. Not after all of those nights that I made you a hot chocolate and you made me a pan full of your sweet rolls.” She looked back up at him, studying the form of the Templar walking next to her. Even though he was hardly what she would consider to be elderly, he walked like a man of greater age, as if his life sought to remain as a burden on his bent back.
Cullen seemed to have taken note of Dagna’s curiosity about her surroundings, which included him. “Lots of changes,” he said quietly. “Not much place for us Templars anymore. The White Divine said that there’s not need for more than ten in the small outposts and twenty to thirty in the major cities. Even then, we’re just watching for magic to get out of control. No one in the Free Marches has reported any magical accidents of significance since the war ended.” He grunted in what sounded like an expression of regret. “I’m overseeing twenty men and women that spend the day playing cards and drinking. Can’t talk them into prayer because – what are we supposed to do? We’re like Grey Wardens will be at the end of all of the Blights, except there will always be darkspawn to kill.”
“And there will always be someone that will cross the line,” Dagna noted, albeit with a tinge of regret. “Templars aren’t useless. Your job’s changed, but you’ll never be useless.”
“Our careers were built on the backs of mages. They’ve become modern, thanks to you and the Tevinter Magisters that finally pulled their heads out of their backsides and stopped summoning demons.” Cullen deliberately led Dagna away from the small groups of people that did their business within the towering, confining walls. “We’re lost. Ancient. No longer relevant.”
Dagna dug her front teeth into her lower lip. She pitied Cullen because they had been friends while she lived in the Ferelden Circle – and only for that reason. The younger, innocent part of herself wanted to embrace him in a hug, even though embracing someone clad in a full suit of armor would be like hugging a golem.
The older part of her, the wiser portion that had watched a revolution unfold, a new Age begin, and some of her dearest friends be killed in battle wanted to find the nearest chair, stand upon it, and punch him directly in the nose. He was whining about losing a job based on the abuse of others, and certainly, there was something wrong with the world if she had to listen to that.
Dagna forced herself to change the subject. “You should have seen the proposal I gave to the Viscountess. I can’t believe I had the nerve. I can’t believe she actually agreed to it, even though it’s small-scale right now. We’re starting with lyrium-powered lamps in her keep – all throughout. It’ll be expanded to Hightown by the end of next year. We’ll be doing it in a workshop in Lowtown, which will be retrofitted with machinery purchased from the Imperium. Kirkwall will have its own product that it can sell to all of Thedas – lyrium lamps and the implements required to run them.” She looked up at Cullen. “Do you know what they’re up to in Antiva? Balloons. Not just the children’s toy, either. They’re trying to develop a lyrium-powered balloon. Yes, I know, it’s a horribly dangerous way to travel. Run into one single dragon and it’s curtains for you. But can you imagine it? Cutting entire weeks off of travel?”
Cullen didn’t answer immediately. In fact, Dagna distinctly noticed that he was walking a bit further apart from her. “Don’t know why all of you mages are so damn fascinated with flying,” he muttered when, at last, he seemed to find his voice. “You fly, you will get killed by a dragon. It’s happened every damn time that someone’s invented a flying spell. Maybe it’s time that all of you learned to keep your damned feet on the ground.”
Then suddenly, he turned, and headed back the way that he came.
Dagna was left, standing in place, her jaw somewhat gaping open in an expression of horror. At first, she was simply shocked at Cullen’s behavior. Then, the offense set in, the emotion that caused her fingers to curl into fists of their own accord.
It was not that he had called her a mage. Dagna had been referring to herself as a mage for years, though she often took criticism for the use of that title. It was a combination of Cullen’s complaining and the content of said complaints that settled upon her in the wrong way, like a bad meal as it gurgled in the stomach and threatened worse and more distasteful noises and reactions of the body.
She found herself wondering how she could have ever considered him to be a friend.
Then again, she had once been very naive.
Deciding not to chase Cullen, Dagna instead went for a walk, using the ferry to cross from the Gallows into Lowtown. Eventually, she found herself at a seedy inn of sorts. Stepping up to the bar, she ordered a drink, then carried it to an empty table.
It was time to sit and think about what had transpired. Or, Dagna thought as she began to sip her whiskey, perhaps it was time to abandon the idea of keeping the Knight-Commander as a friend. The thought caused her stomach to ache – or maybe it was the cheap whiskey – but he had drawn the line and stepped across it.
Dagna resolved to put it out of her mind. It was Cullen’s problem, not hers.
It was just then that she heard the chair next to hers being dragged aside. “You don’t want to waste your money on the house whiskey here. Trust me,” a voice said as Dagna heard a heavy weight drop onto the chair, then the unmistakable clunk of a glass bottle against the wooden table before her. “It’s more water than spirits. Here. You can share my bottle, if you want the company.”
Dagna raised her head and looked at her sudden companion. A male dwarf sat next to her, his hand extended in a way of greeting. She took quick stock in the sight of his sparse hair pulled back in a ponytail, while the top of his head had long-since gone bald. He wore also a brown velvet coat with worn gold trim.
She shook the hand. “I’ve never been one for drinking alone,” she said with the only smile that she could manage, which wasn’t much. “I’m Dagna.”
“Varric Tethras. Nice to meet you.”