As they walked around the shops at Suledin Keep, Cullen marveled at his luck. He had expected to have been dragged from one dress store to another or to have spent his time watching Evelyn try on shoes. That was at least what happened when as a boy he had gone to market with his sisters. Instead, Evelyn and he had devoted the majority of their time to perusing booksellers and armorers. Evelyn had as great a passion for weapons and gear as he did. They spent hours digging through schematics and crafting materials weighing what would best suit their companions and soldiers. Once their decisions were made, Evelyn ordered the items to be delivered to Skyhold for Harritt and Dagna’s use. Then they visited a confectioner and a bakery to stock up on their licorice and cookie hoards. Only after that was complete did Evelyn stop at a dressmaker.
Evelyn’s hands traveled over the intricate fabrics for ballgowns the shop displayed. “I never got to wear the dress we had sewn for Halamshiral.” she said with disappointment then added with mock anger while looking at Cullen directly, “Someone thought it preferable that I look like a glorified nutcracker instead.” Her eyes returned to the elegant damasks, laces, and silks. “No sense having a new dress made when I already have one at home unused.” She announced and then walked to a different section of the shop.
Her wistfulness at not having an opportunity to wear her dress gave Cullen an idea for a birthday present. The timeframe was tight and his idea would require a great deal of coordination and finesse, but he knew it would delight her. He would need to call in several favors and entice people to keep quiet, but he enjoyed a tactical challenge.
Cullen’s mental planning was interrupted by a shriek of excitement from Evelyn. He peered around the store until he saw her holding a hideously ugly pair of yellow flannel plaidweave pajamas. She was bouncing up and down while giggling madly. “I found a birthday present for myself!” she yelled across the shop.
“Oh no, you don’t dare buy those. That was my idea.” he teased back.
“Too bad I found them first. They’re so soft and warm. I think I’ll wear them tonight even.” she answered while paying the merchant who seemed relieved someone was finally buying the set.
After a dinner of mutton with mint jelly and roasted potatoes, they returned to Evelyn’s room. She quickly dispatched the paperwork that was awaiting her while Cullen read and took notes on his own set of reports. When she handed a messenger her last responses, Evelyn asked Cullen if he was ready for bed. He wasn’t yet tired and had much more work to finish, but the tilt of her head told him that she was not suggesting sleep. “That sounds good,” he replied.
Rather than go to him, she walked over to the packages they had bought. She shuffled through them until she found the one holding the pajamas and took it with her behind the dressing screen. I can’t believe she’s going to wear those horrendous things. Does she actually intend for us to just go to sleep? Cullen thought.
Unsure of how to proceed, Cullen removed his mantle and armor. They would need to be off for either activity. Evelyn stepped from behind the screen, and his mouth dropped open. Her hair was down hanging in loose brown waves, and she was wearing the yellow plaid pajamas. Rather than look frumpy, she looked amazing. She had rolled the sleeves of the pajamas up to her elbows and left the shirt unbuttoned exposing a tight, thin undershirt that stopped just above her waist. The pajama bottoms sat low on her hips, so he could see her belly button and toned stomach. She stretched a hand upward along the edge of the screen exposing more of her abdomen while giving him a sly smile. “Like my birthday PJs now?”
A similar smile crept over his face as he peeled off his shirt and walked toward her, “Maker’s breath, Evelyn, you make plaidweave look sexy.”
The next morning Evelyn had her team up and moving before dawn. She planned to tackle the second rift and leave Emprise du Lion as soon as it was sealed. The team needed to capture Samson rather than get bogged down with requests from villagers and nobles. Evelyn was terrible at saying no to genuine pleas for assistance, so she wanted to leave the area before people could begin seeking her out. She also wanted to get away from the red lyrium deposits in the area. They were beginning to make her ill already.
When they got near the rift, Evelyn again directed her team. Given the number of demons spawned by the last rift in the area, she decided to add two more people to the fight - Dorian and Cullen. With a fourth mage, Evelyn hoped that they would be able to dispel most if not all of subsequent waves of demons. She was nervous about letting Cullen join in but recognized the need to integrate him into her fighting unit.
While her other companions stood nearby to watch, Evelyn approached the rift while Cullen, Cassandra, and the three mages stood ready at its edges. Soon the rift was buzzing and popping with energy and sending out green spindles.
Bull turned to Blackwall as they watched the rift from the distance, “Just five. This one should be easy.”
“Depends on what the five are.” Blackwall replied.
The green pools of fade energy coming from the spindles grew more active and then the demons emerged.
“Shit.” Bull cursed as he counted three terrors and two shades.
“I’m glad I’m sitting this one out.” Varric commented.
Everyone watching expected Evelyn to get knocked out during the fighting. She had yet to encounter terrors and remain conscious. To their surprise, the addition of Cullen to the team made the difference. He stayed near to Evelyn shadowing her moves and guarding her flank. Whenever the telltale pools of green fade energy that predicted a terror’s appearance formed at their feet, Cullen would kneel and warn Evelyn who would fade step away. Cullen would keep his shield up as the terror’s attack began, and Evelyn would dispel its paralyzing scream. Then together the two would attack the demon until it retreated under the earth or eventually died.
“Guarding, guiding - he stands behind her but not in her shadow. Secure and safe - she looks forward but leans back on him. Surer, stronger together.” Cole commented.
“You said it, Kid. They make quite the pair.” Varric agreed.
The first wave of demons was dispatched, and Evelyn remained unharmed and awake the entire time. She gave Bull a thumbs up sign and shouted “Three terrors and I’m still standing!”
“Thank Cullen for that,” he yelled back.
The rift began to shoot out spindles again. Six pools of fade energy began to form on the ice. Cassandra and the mages dispelled five allowing only one demon to spawn. The despair demon was hit with immolation spells and fire barrages from the four mages simultaneously and died instantly. Evelyn raised her marked hand and willed the rift to close. When the rift snapped shut, Evelyn flung her arms around Cullen’s neck and kissed his cheek. “Thank you.” Cullen merely bowed his head and replied. “Anytime, my love.”