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Fate's Plan

Chapter Text

It was hours after everyone had gone to bed that Cullen had finally decided to call it a night and put the papers away into a night pile on his desk. Not only was he exhausted from his training with the soldiers but he was still recovering from his journey with Inquisitor Trevelyan to the Shrine of Dumat. While Cullen had insisted on going, he had no way of preparing himself for the horrors he would see. He shook the memories from his head and rubbed his eyes softly before climbing the ladder to his loft. He removed the mantle, gloves, and breastplate from his body before neatly placing him on the chest in front of his bed. It was no sooner that he leaned down to unlace his boots that his stomach growled, reminding him that he had missed the meal times of the day... again.

"Maker's breath." He groaned and considered just going to sleep but his stomach let out another noise of disapproval. He sighed in defeat before standing up and climbing down the ladder to his office.

He walked silently through the fortress and made his way to the kitchen, hoping that Sera hadn't used the remainder of the apples for target practice again. He knew the cooks would be asleep and though Tylleah, the kind elderly woman who ran the kitchen, had told him on more than one occasion that he could wake her if he missed a meal, he never would. He had told her that he expected no special treatment but the old woman had smiled and told him that it was the least she could do for him after he helped save her at Haven.

He had managed to walk through the fortress without disturbing anyone and for that he was grateful. The last thing he wanted was to be scolded by Cassandra for not taking better care of himself. He walked until he reached the last step before entering the kitchen and after a quick look around to make sure that he was alone, he walked in. He walked over to the small wooden counter where the apples normally sat and found the bowl was completely empty. He shook his head before muttering: "Dammit, Sera."

The sound of a laugh pulled him out of his disappointment and he looked to see a female figure standing in the shadows. "Well, I'm not Sera but I am to blame for the apples disappearing. My horse and I arrived late into the night and were both starving after the long day's journey."

"Maker's breath! Forgive me, I didn't see you." He told the figure, feeling foolish not only for not noticing that he wasn't alone but also that he had falsely accused one of the Inquisitor's companions.

The woman laughed softly before emerging from the shadows and revealing her face to him. Even after the long day's journey and the dark circles under her eyes, Cullen could see that she was striking. Her skin was fair and he couldn't help but notice that while her body had clearly had years of training, her curves were still noticeable through the black leggings and the grey loose sleeved top she wore, something that was clearly Orlesian. Her short hair that fell around her neck was a deep red that reminded him of the roses that had bloomed in Lothering. Her amethyst eyes were framed by long eyelashes and he found that there was almost something feline about their form and the way they watched him. The tattoos across her cheekbones were a deep black that looked like branches extending back to her pointed ears.

"You must be the warrior that half of the Orlesians are talking about right now." He looked back into her eyes and a faint blush covered his cheeks as he realized that she had been studying him as well. It also occurred to him then that not only did he not have his regular army on but that the ties of his shirt were undone. She gave him a wicked smile before saying: "They all had similar descriptions so it's not difficult to tell."

He realized then that he hadn't introduced himself and mentally scolded himself for being so rude to the unknown visitor. "My name is-"

"A formal introduction is unnecessary." She told him with a teasing smile. "I know exactly who you are."

He arched an eyebrow curiously before asking: "Have we met?"

She walked over before removing the black leather gloves from her hand and laying them on the wooden counter. "No, I, unfortunately, had to visit a friend in Orlais before coming here and she gave me a quick description of the leaders of the Inquisition. Cassandra is dark headed and usually can be found with Inquisitor Gabriel Trevelyan, who has extremely light blonde hair and jade green eyes that match the Rift. A terrifying comparison, if I may add. Josephine Montilyet is often dressed in Orlesian wear and a kind smile. Sister Nightingale, also known as Leliana is extremely terrifying and a redhead to top things off."

He smirked before saying: "Fairly accurate descriptions."

"I was told that the Commander of the Inquisition was polite, ruggedly handsome, available," the smile fell from her lips as she said: "and a former Templar."

He looked at her questioningly before clearing his throat. "I was placed in Fereldan's Circle when I turned eighteen. Do you have family in the Circle?"

She laughed, erasing the tension that had been around her eyes before shaking her head. "I confess, I expected the flattery to be the first thing you caught."

"Flattery has a tendency to make me uncomfortable so it's best not to draw attention to it." He told her before adding: "Now, about my question."

She rolled her eyes before saying: "No, I was just told that they had a tendency to be extremely aggressive towards mages. Especially with the rebellion going on."

"I would have placed you as a rogue by the looks of your equipment." He admitted as he looked down at where her daggers were strapped to her boots.

She shrugged before leaning against the counter and crossing her arms over her chest. "I never learned to use a staff so I don't see the point in traveling with a big stick that would cause me more damage than an enemy." She thought for a moment before letting out a humorless laugh. "I'd probably forget where I laid it and trip over the damn thing."

He couldn't help the laugh that escaped him as he imagined the scene she described. He saw a smile tug at her lips but she never allowed herself to laugh, still studying his reactions to her. He cleared his throat before running a nervous hand through his hair but couldn't bring himself to drop his smile. "Most mages don't trust themselves to be without their staves. I can't say I've ever met a mage that was so confident in their abilities." He looked at her curiously before asking: "Have you never been to a Circle?"

"Didn't see the point." She admitted without hesitation. "I taught myself control of my magic and what I couldn't teach myself, I learned from the books that I was able to get my hands on."

He was about to ask her what magic she had learned when a yawn broke from him. He was then reminded by his body that he was exhausted and still hadn't managed to locate anything to eat. His stomach growling let his kitchen companion know this as well. She reached into the pale satchel at her side and pulled out a red apple before placing it in his hand. "I was saving this but I think you need it more than I do."

He shook his head before saying: "I don't-"

"It's rude to refuse a gift from a friend." She stated with a wicked smile. "Or so I'm told. Don't really have any to be sure but I am going to go with the assumption."

"I don't have many either so I'll take your word for it, my lady." He told her as he accepted the apple. She looked at him surprised and he offered no explanation as to why and she didn't ask.

She shrugged it off before saying: "Well, I guess we will both have to work on our friendly skills."

"I suppose so." He told her as she walked past him and towards the stairs. He was about to take a bite of the apple when he realized a very important factor. "Forgive me, I never asked for your name."

She stopped in her tracks to turn and look at him with a disapproving smirk. "Names and titles have a way of taking away from who we are. They present us with assumptions from other's without giving us the chance to get to know each other and make us feel as if we have to live up to them." She shrugged before adding: "It's nice to not be bothered with the weight of responsibility and judgment that they bring."

She then proceeded to walk back up the stairs and he found himself staring after her. He turned back to the apple after her footsteps faded and he laughed softly at the kind gesture. He couldn't help but ponder the fact that she had given her meal to a complete stranger without a second thought. He wondered if it was something she'd done often in her life and though he found it confusing, he was grateful that she hadn't given him her name. He had no idea who she was and therefore had no assumed ideas about her. Instead, he had been given the chance to see a glimpse of who she really was.

Something a name would have taken away.

Chapter Text

Cullen stood over the war table, studying everywhere they had been and all of the alliances that the Inquisition had made over the past several months. They had come far since the Inquisition had first begun but with Corypheus still a threat, they had a long way to go before they could declare a victory.

The door opening caused him to look up and he couldn't help but grin as he saw Josephine wander in, a tired but joyful smile spread across her face. She blushed a little when she saw him and nervously said: "Good morning, Commander."

He grinned at her teasingly as he said: "I had a feeling you were Warden Blackwall's visitor in the stables."

She blushed deeper before saying: "Nothing inappro-"

"It's none of my business, Josephine." He gave her a reassuring smile as he stood up from where he'd been studying the maps. "Everyone deserves happiness, even in the midst of war."

Cassandra walked in a moment later with an uncharacteristically bright smile on her face. "I couldn't agree more."

Josephine giggled before asking: "I assume you enjoyed your picnic with the Inquisitor?"

Cassandra gave her a warning look but couldn't quite wipe the smile off of her face. Instead, she decided to turn the focus on someone else and looked at Cullen questioningly. "You never came down for a meal yesterday."

"I was focused on my work and didn't realize that the meal times had all passed. It was late but I did eat last night and have had breakfast this morning." Cullen smirked at her before adding: "So you can stop worrying."

Josephine gave a disapproving sigh before saying: "Perhaps we should find our dear Commander a lover. Then he would have a woman to constantly badger him about taking care of himself and you could enjoy your... picnics more often."

Cassandra groaned and Cullen rolled his eyes at the remark. Love was the last thing on his mind and he hadn't felt an attraction for a woman in years. However, his mind did trace back to the woman he'd met last night in the kitchen. She'd been the first woman he'd given a second look in years and though he refused to allow his thoughts to distract him, he did wonder what part she would play in the Inquisition.

"Good morning, Ambassador. Commander." Inquisitor Trevelyan, Gabriel as he'd begged them to call him, said with a bright smile as he walked in. He didn't take a moment before approaching Cassandra and leaning in to place a gentle kiss on her cheek.

She cleared her throat and he simply shrugged before running a hand through his messy white-blond hair. He then looked around curiously before asking: "Where is our Spymaster?"

"Oh!" Josephine exclaimed as she looked up from the letter she had been writing. "Leliana said she would be arriving a few minutes late. She had to speak with Mother Giselle about a pressing matter this morning."

As if on cue, Leliana walked in a moment later with a distraught look on her face. She scoffed at the comment before saying: "Not as pressing as our dear Mother made it sound. I apologize for being late but we must tend to business at hand." She looked to Cullen and asked: "How are the new recruits settling in?"

The playfulness he had shown with Josephine disappeared as the meeting began. "Most of them are settling in well and have given little issue. Some of them are still concerned about the wardens being here but they are slowly coming around."

"I understand that the wardens fucked up but we need to be working together," Gabriel said with a roll of his eyes. "No one is going to take the Inquisition seriously if our own troops can't get along."

Leliana smiled proudly before saying: "I've already taken care of this. We didn't have a leader for the Grey Wardens here but after an urgent letter to the First Warden, he quickly sent someone to watch over them."

Cullen nearly dropped the papers he'd been holding when a familiar face walked into the war room. He looked upon the woman who had arrived late into the night and had insisted on him eating the last apple was standing before him. She was no longer dressed in the leggings and simple shirt she had worn last night. No, this time she was dressed in warden mage attire and held a formal but polite smile as she addressed the room.

She walked over and held her hands firmly behind her back in a military fashion as she faced them. She made no move to speak and instead waited on Leliana to make a formal introduction. "This is Lady Josephine Montilyet, our Ambassador from Antiva."

"A pleasure to have you help with our cause," Josephine told her with a kind smile and polite nod.

"Lord Gabriel Trevelyan" Leliana said before smirking and adding: "and Lady Cassandra Pentaghast."

Cassandra studied the redhead with an intense gaze as Gabriel laughed softly and gave her a polite nod. "The more the merrier."

"Commander Cullen is the leader of our forces" Leliana smiled wickedly before saying: "and evidently quite the topic in the salons of Orlais."

Even with her teasing, Cullen couldn't bring himself to say anything to either of them. His mind was still processing that the young woman he'd met last night was a Grey Warden, something that shouldn't have been difficult to understand.

The woman cleared her throat, hoping to ease the awkward silence and get rid of some of the tension that seemed to fill the room. "The Commander and I have already met. However, this is our first formal introduction."

Leliana gave the two a questioning look and her concern only grew when Cullen met the newcomer's teasing smile with a blank expression. She made a mental note to ask the Commander why there was an unpleasantness to them meeting again but carried on. She would have to save the personal questions for a later time.

Gabriel cleared his throat, causing a puzzled expression to cross each of his advisors' faces. He then looked to the newest member of the council and said: "Forgive me for laughing but we have yet to learn your name."

"This is Nyaathria Talviel, she was the warden that oversaw the rebuilding of the Alienage in Denerim and Kirkwall as well as an advisor to Queen Ilianalia Theirin," Leliana informed the group, a smile pulling at her lips as she thought fondly of her dear friend. "I have heard from the Queen herself that she is trustworthy."

"Nyla, please." She told them, an uneasy feeling washing over her as they studied her. Cullen noticed her discomfort at the formal introduction and noticed that she averted her eyes only for a moment before looking to Leliana with a teasing smile. "Lia spoke highly of you as well, Spymaster. It sounds like you two had one hell of an adventure in Ferelden."

Leliana laughed softly before saying: "We made quite the team with Alistair and Morrigan accompanying us, even if they did drive each other mad. It's comforting to know that two of my dear friends are not only ruling over Ferelden but still as madly in love as they were then."

"It's nauseating actually," Nyla said with a roll of her eyes and the two redheads laughed.

Leliana cleared her throat a moment later, her face going from the rare relaxed expression to the more formal business one in a matter of moments. She then looked to Gabriel, who had a similar expression on his face as he looked over the maps.

The change from kind words and teasing to planning out moves for their next battle and discussing allies for the Inquisition took only a matter of moments. Nyla easily discussed how the wardens could help further their advances in battle and how she had a few connections of her own that would help in their search for allies. She was quite a few years younger than the rest of them physically but her knowledge of war and alliances made it clear that she had been trained to know how to operate in a battle, on and off the field.

It wasn't until Cassandra made the comment that she would be the only one who had enough knowledge to be able to rank as Warden Commander that Nyla's expression went completely blank. She showed no anger, joy, or fear at the mention of such a responsibility. Instead, she simply went back to explaining how a duke of some sort owed her a favor and would be more than happy to supply the Inquisition with any maps or gold they might need.

"Perhaps that's enough for now," Josephine said as a final note, her quill stopping for the first time since the meeting began. "I have several letters to write and I would like to send word to our probable allies as soon as possible."

Gabriel wrapped an arm around Cassandra's waist before saying: "I agree. We have much to see to by the end of the day and I must prepare for my journey back to the Storm Coasts tomorrow." Cassandra looked up at him questioningly, a concerned expression crossing her features. Gabriel pointed to the map of the Storm Coasts before explaining: "There have been several sightings of red lyrium along this passage. I want to see that they are destroyed as soon as possible."

"I assume you were going to tell me about this earlier?" Cassandra asked with a disapproving scowl.

"I was actually hoping you would accompany me there," Gabriel said with a charming smile. "Beaches, swords, and possibly dragons. Who could ask for a better date?"

Gabriel walked out of the room before she could give him a reply and she groaned softly. "He is impossible."

Josephine giggled while Leliana simply stated: "No, he's a Trevelyan."

"Close enough." Cassandra groaned as the three of them walked out of the war room, the sound of Leliana and Josephine teasing Cassandra fading with every step.

Cullen rolled his eyes at the group of women before remembering that he had a fresh stack of papers on his desk about the arrangements for the rogue troops. He was about to walk out when he felt a hand on his arm. He turned around to see a familiar pair of purple eyes staring at him.

"May I have a word?"

Chapter Text

Cullen reluctantly faced her and waited for her explanation with a blank expression. Nyla was a Grey Warden and therefore was trained not to show when she felt unsure of a situation. However, she wasn't a typical Grey Warden and instead chose when to show her emotions in a situation. This was one of those times and she didn't hide that she felt uneasy as she stared into his golden eyes.

"I know that I should have introduced myself properly seeing as how we would be... working together." She began and while his expression didn't change, it seemed like a fire was burning in his eyes.

Cullen's voice was firm as he asked: "Why didn't you say anything when we met? I would never have-"

"Acted so casual?" She interrupted, her irritation clear in her voice. "That's why I didn't tell you. People stop treating me like a person when they find out that I'm Warden Childress' daughter. It's why I don't have his last name. I would rather my own actions speak for myself than my father's title as First Warden."

He had no words. She was right in every sense. The moment Leliana had introduced her, he no longer addressed her with kindness as the young woman who had selflessly given him the last apple in the kitchen. Instead, he'd reacted to her with formal respect and seen her with an air of importance, as her title demanded.

They stared each other down for a few moments more, bright gold and amethyst eyes as emotionless as the treasures themselves. It wasn't until her gaze went to the floor in defeat that Cullen found his voice again.

"Forgive me."

She looked up at him again but did not meet his eyes this time. Instead, she stared at the wall behind his head in confusion as to why he would choose those words. When he didn't offer the explanation, she instead opted to ease the tension. "You've done nothing wrong."

"But I have." He told her and he only began to explain when their eyes met again. "Your reasoning was understandable. Instead of seeing you as you are, I examined you as your title and nothing else. I had no right to treat you as I did because I have been guilty of the same deceit."

She let out a small breath of laughter as she said: "The Commander of the Inquisition hides from his title?"

His scarred mouth quirked up in a smirk of defeat as he nodded once. "It's nice to forget about the responsibility of a title. Even if it's nothing more than a moment."

"I couldn't agree more." She told him, a genuine smile spreading across her features.

The sound of footsteps grabbed their attention and they turned to see a young scout come to stand in the doorway. He looked to be nearly a year older than Nyla at the most but she knew better than to judge people on their age. She looked back at Cullen but he had replaced his smirk with a blank expression.

"Like so." He told her before giving a polite nod and heading out of the door with the scout. She couldn't make out the full conversation but she couldn't help but laugh when she heard Cullen's disapproving: "Why the Inquisitor insists we need him here, I'll never know."

She waited until she heard the second door close behind them before deciding that a trip to Skyhold's garden was long overdue. She always found peace when she wasn't around people and she was sure that she could find an area there that could become her hiding spot.

"Lady Talviel," Josephine called from the corner of the room. She had a stack of papers, several envelopes and a bouquet of orchids sitting on her desk.

Nyla held her polite smile but couldn't help but feel the urge to recoil at the sound of the formal greeting. Instead, she decided to take a different approach and focused on the flowers. "These are lovely."

"Aren't they?" Josephine said with a look of admiration. "Fresh from the garden and perfectly arranged. He always knows just how to make me smile."

"You have an admirer then?" Nyla asked with a sly smile. Josephine gently touched her hand to one of the petals before turning to look at her.

A light blush colored her cheeks as she said: "Warden Blackwall has expressed an interest in me, one of the few rays of light in this mess."

"Warden Blackwall?" Nyla asked with a playful smile despite her disbelief at the name. It was impossible for her to have heard that name in joy, at least it should have been.

"Yes, he is truly wonderful." Josephine had an almost dreamy look on her face as she spoke about him. That look faded when she saw the questioning look on Nyla's face. "Do you know each other, my lady?"

Nyla nodded before reassuring Josephine. "Warden Blackwall's a good man. He and my father fought side by side during their years as recruits. I had the pleasure of meeting him once before I was called to assist the alienage in the Anderfels."

Josephine relaxed at the words, her heart slowing back to a normal pace as Nyla relaxed. "He is in the stables if you wish to see him, my lady."

"Thank you." Nyla gave a friendly smile and her bright eyes showed compassion as she said: "Lady Montilyet."

"I hope you will consider me a friend and call me Josephine." She replied with a light laugh.

Nyla gave her a sly smile before adding: "Well, Josephine, then it would make me very happy as your friend if you would call me Nyla. I am younger than you and there are no titles between friends."

Josephine's smile never faltered as she looked at the young Warden. "Very well, Nyla."

Nyla nodded before exiting out of the door that led to the main hallway. She walked past the door that would enter the garden and instead decided to hunt down the stables. She had heard that Warden Blackwall had died many years ago and was unsure which thought was worse: that the real Blackwall had forsaken his duty as a Warden or that another had taken on the identity.

She slipped through Skyhold easily, appearing only as a Warden recruit at a glance. Her father had always been frustrated that she never wore the artifacts that marked her as Warden Commander, claiming that she looked like just any Warden. At sixteen, she had made it abundantly clear that she would let her actions speak for her rather than the silver and gold griffin pendant her father had given her when she'd reached her status of Warden Commander. She'd been young but she was certain of what she wanted then and even more so now.

She entered the stables to see a man working on a wooden griffon that looked about the height of a small child. She cleared her throat to get the stranger's attention. He turned to look at her with a friendly gaze despite his tired, dark eyes. He straightened from his work station and offered her a polite nod.

"Are they sending new recruits my way again?" The dark haired man asked with a hint of teasing. Nyla didn't offer a smile or an explanation but instead had a puzzling look come over her face.

She met the man's eyes with a blank expression. She felt relief that her thoughts of the real Blackwall abandoning his position were wrong but she was unsure of what to think of the impersonator standing before her. Instead, she directed her eyes to the wooden statue he had been carving. "I've noticed several children around the camps, both with and without parents."

"I thought this might cheer them up. They don't have much to call their own." He explained as he gently patted the wooden figure.

"They seem to find joy playing with the other children and hearing about the Inquisitor's adventures." She relaxed slightly before explaining: "Right now, we have to enjoy the smallest joys where we can. They may be wiped out at any moment."

Blackwall studied her carefully, realizing that she wasn't a recruit that had been sent to him for training. "Who are you, my lady?"

She smiled but there was no joy in it. It was more to put them both at ease than to show emotion. "Warden Blackwall never forgot a face. Even after years without communication, he would still know a face."

"You know." Two words. That was all it took for a tension to build that seemed to cut like a knife.

"Nylaathria Talviel." She stated before offering a piece of advice. "First Warden Childress and Warden Blackwall were friends long before they earned their titles. We met only once but he wrote regularly. I suspected that he'd gone to the Maker when a month passed without a letter." She studied him intensely, waiting for an explanation or action that would reveal the pretender's character. She never took her eyes off of the man but she felt the magic boil in her blood, ready to strike if he reached for a weapon.

He gave her an apologetic look as he spoke, barely above a whisper: "Warden Blackwall was a good man. He offered even the lowest of people a chance of redemption."

"He always said that everyone deserves a second chance." Nyla took a settling breath before turning on her heel. She didn't turn to look at him as she said: "Do his memory proud."

She walked out of the stables, offering him no chance to explain or herself a chance to think too much. Instead, she decided that she would seek solace in the garden after all.

Chapter Text

Nyla had managed to walk around the training grounds unnoticed for the last half hour. Despite her warden uniform, no one blinked in her direction. She observed the recruits and carefully studied their tactics, storing away what each of them needed to improve on so that she could personally train them later. She was determined to help the Inquisition and the first place she would start would be with her fellow wardens, not because of her father's wishes but because she knew what they faced and would not send them into war unprepared.

Her attention was fully on the wardens until she heard the sound of grunting coming from behind her. She half expected to have to scold a few recruits for sneaking off to fool around but her disappointing scowl turned to pure confusion when she turned around to face the noise. She watched as Cassandra raised a large stick to hit an energetic Qunari square in his chest as he goaded her to strike him again and again.

He growled finally and said: "This is why the Qun doesn't like women fighting. I should have asked Cullen."

Nyla didn't have a moment to ponder that image before an expression of pure annoyance crossed Cassandra's face and she swung with full force, knocking the arrogant Qunari to the ground. She watched as groaned out: "Good one" from his place on the ground and she couldn't help but laugh softly.

Cassandra seemed not to notice her as Gabriel walked over with a smile on his face. She extended her arm to hand him the stick and said: "Perhaps you can take over?"

"On the contrary, I'm here to retrieve you." He told her as he took the stick. He lifted her hand to softly kiss her knuckles before giving the Qunari a teasing glance. "Besides, I think it's time for Bull and my newest advisor to get acquainted."

He threw the large stick and Nyla caught it without missing a beat as she raised an eyebrow. "Doesn't it seem rude to allow the introduction to come moments before I hit him?"

Gabriel shrugged before saying: "You can do introductions whenever you please. He just needs to be hit with the stick and I'm sure it won't take you long before you actually want to hit him. He has that certain... charm about him."

Bull groaned and Gabriel stuck out his tongue before smiling at a glaring Cassandra. Her expression didn't change as she scolded him by saying: "I work with children."

Gabriel smiled brightly before saying: "That doesn't look so good on your part. Especially considering our more... intimate details, love."

She had no other reply other than to pull him in for a quick kiss before leaning over to whisper something in his ear that caused him to chuckle. Whatever she said did the trick because a moment later, he held her hand and lead her towards the main hall. Nyla stared after them with a confused expression on her face as she wondered what she could have said to make him leave without a word of goodbye.

The Qunari grunted out a laugh beside her before voicing his opinion. "I bet she promised to tie him up and spank him."

She'd planned to be civil about the "training exercise" that he and Cassandra had been participating in but the comment through any chance of that out of the realm of possibility. Nyla raised the stick and without a moment's hesitation, landed a blow on the Qunari's chest with full force. The Qunari found himself once again on the ground and knocked back by nearly a foot with the unexpected strike and Nyla made no move to help him. Instead, she placed the end of the stick in the ground and placed her hand that wasn't hold it on her hip, her facial expression daring him to say anything else.

He groaned as he rubbed the reddening area on his chest. "I'm guessing you don't have a sense of humor then?"

"My sense of humor is fully intact. However, I will not listen to any vulgar ideas that you have about the Inquisitor or anyone else." Her expression softened. "I may not hit you so softly next time."

The Qunari stood from the ground with a laugh before saying: "I'll make a note of it. They call me the Iron Bull. You got a name or should I just call you hothead?"

She slightly raised the stick from the ground and noticed he flinched at the movement, bracing for another hit. She shoved the stick into his hands before giving him a smirk: "My name is Nyla. It was almost a pleasure to meet you, Iron Bull."

He laughed heartily at the comment and hit her on the back. "You are going to fit in just fine around here, Nyla."

She smirked at him but didn't have time to reply before she heard the sound of armor rushing in their direction. She looked toward the noise and saw that it was one of the younger scouts that she'd seen walking around Skyhold.

"Time to kill. Wonder if we'll see a dragon this time, maybe even kill it." Bull said with a mischievous grin.

The scout slowed when he approached the two of them and they were both surprised when he turned his attention to her. "Are you Lady Talviel, ma'am?"

She could feel the age-old argument about people calling her "lady" anything but let it die when she saw the scout's tired eyes. Instead, she gave him a kind smile and assured him. "I am."

He gestured for her to follow him and she did so without a moment of hesitation. She heard Iron Bull's grumble of: "Damn. No dragon's today" as she walked away and couldn't help but snicker at the sound of his disappointment.

She followed him to the main hall and had started to make her way to the war room when the scout called out: "Lady Talviel, this way?."

She gave him a confused look as he headed to the area where the library was. She followed him in the direction but was only more confused when he led her out of the other door on the first floor, passing by another elf who was engrossed in a book and didn't bother to pay any attention to them. She continued to follow the scout until they came to a small tower that was secluded from everything else in Skyhold.

He opened the door for her and she was skeptical until she walked in and saw the commander sitting at his desk. She noticed that he didn't look up to greet them and upon closer examination, she noticed that he had dark circles under his eyes, his brow was dotted with sweat despite the snow outside, and he looked pale. She turned to the scout, understanding why she had been brought here and dismissed him by saying: "Thank you, I can take it from here."

She closed the door behind her softly and walked over to the Commander, careful to keep a safe distance in case he reacted poorly to her being there. "Cullen, what's wrong?"

He jumped slightly at the sound of her voice and then turned to focus his gaze on her before glaring at her. "Maker's breath, don't you knock?" She keeps a blank expression despite his rough tone and he looks up at her apologetically. "Forgive me."

"Let me help you." She coaxed softly and despite the hesitation in his eyes, she saw the tenseness in his body ease and she removed her gloves before raising her hands. He had a million questions in his eyes but she kept her warm, amethyst eyes on his hesitant, gold ones.

She softly rested her fingers on her temples and summoned the healing force to her hands and watched as he went from sickly to relieved in a matter of moments. He looked up at her with a crooked smile, the scar on his lip seeming to make it that much more lovely. "Thank you."

"How long?" She asked as she began to gently rub his temples with the pads of her thumb, hoping the small touch of magic would prolong the healing.

"I gave up lyrium when I joined the Inquisition and..." He trailed off before looking down at the floor, unable to meet her eyes.

Few templars she'd met had the strength to handle the withdraws of lyrium and the idea that he'd successfully trained troops and kept all of his work up to date for the Inquisition while going through it. "You have a fighting spirit. No wonder they call you the Lion of Ferelden. "

He chuckled softly at the nickname but said nothing. She looked into his eyes and smiled softly before realizing that she was still touching him. She pulled away as if she'd been struck and ran a hand through her hair while the other rested at her side.

"I should go." She told him with a soft chuckle. "Please don't hesitate to call on me if you need healing again."

She was about to walk away when he softly said: "Thank you."

She gave him an assuring nod before walking out of his office and softly closing the door behind her. She let go of the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding in and shook her head in an attempt to get her thoughts together.

She took a deep breath and when she let it out, she reminded herself that she was a warden. That she had a mission and that she wouldn't let herself get distracted from what was ahead of her. Still, try as she might to ignore it, she felt the slightest sparks at the tips of her fingers where she'd touched his face.

"Lady Talviel," a scout called from the door of the library and said: "Our Spymaster needs your input on a situation with the wardens."

Nyla smiled, grateful for the pressing matter as she was able to focus her thoughts back on the Inquisition and not what had just happened moments ago.

"Lead the way."