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The small elf sat slumped before his desk on her knees, hands shackled behind her back, a bruise blossoming on her cheek and blood dripping from her nose. But her eyes. Her eyes were green fire, small emeralds that gleamed with malice as they met his, malice where he had expected fear, anger where he had expected exhaustion, flames where he had expected tears.

The Knight-Commander grinned.

“Where did you find this one?” he asked standing up from the missive he had been reading and making his way leisurely around the large desk.

“Wandering along the coast, Ser,” Arwel, one of the two Templars informed him. “Scrappy little thing put up quite the fight when we approached her.”

Cullen huffed. He had guessed as much when they’d come dragging her into his office, Arwel favouring his left side with a nasty looking gash above his left eyebrow and Bran sporting what had to be a broken nose.

He crouched down in front of her, her fiery gaze never leaving his eyes and he chuckled in amusement grasping a small strand of her long dark hair between his fingers.

“You’ve already been caught,” he told her and somehow her glare became even more potent. Cullen grinned back. This was new. He was used to fear from mages, perhaps the occasional defiant look that could easily be beaten out, but never pure hatred and never no hint of fear. This was interesting.

“What’s your name?” he asked her trailing his eyes along her features, smudged with blood as they were. She was quite striking, the type of beauty only an elf carried. Her long mussed hair lent her a wild appearance, only the points of pale ears sticking out of it and he resisted the urge to run a finger along them. He wanted to see her tremble.

She responded by narrowing her eyes at him. Cullen cocked an eyebrow.

“You’re not Dalish, you have no outside protection. You have been brought in rightfully by the Templar Order, apostate, and your mana is so low by all accounts you should be passed out,” he said. “Whether this goes one way or another is entirely up to you. And considering you used offensive magic on two of my men, the Rite of Tranquility is not off the table.”

The elf stiffened and bared her teeth at him but responded, “Nira.”

“Nira,” Cullen smiled taking her chin in his hand. “Welcome to the Circle. I’m Knight-Commander Cullen, and you are no longer permitted to cast unless explicitly given permission to do so. Do you understand?”

Nira pulled her chin from his grasp.

“Sure, Knight-Commander, I understand,” she responded melodiously, dangerously, scathingly. Cullen smirked.

“Not sure you do, elf. But you will soon,” he stood up. “Get Knight-Captain Rylen to escort her to the Harrowing chamber and then go get cleaned up.” He told the two Templars without taking his eyes off Nira.

Patience had never been one of his virtues. And he was very eager to dampen the fire in Nira’s eyes – not entirely, but just enough so she would know, like they all knew, that he, Knight-Commander Cullen, was in charge.