After the incidents he had seen in his life at the Circle Tower in Kinloch Hold and in Kirkwall, there were very few things of which Cullen Rutherford was certain. He knew red lyrium was devastating, the entire circle system and chantry were completely bungled and in need of guidance, and that the appearance of a redhead in his life was almost always bad luck—though he was loathe to tell his current colleague Leliana about that fact.
The first time he met Leliana, in fact, was when she was with an even more dangerous redhead. It was when the Circle of Magi Cullen was assigned to was besieged by blood mages. Uldred, their leader, had tortured and imprisoned him for so long he had forgotten what time was until a serious face with kind eyes and flaming hair appeared before him. She did not give into his pleas to slay all of the remaining mages and instead focused on salvaging who she could, saving First Enchanter Irving. Cullen fought bitterly with her and pleaded with Knight-Commander Greagoir to execute the remaining mages, but it was to no avail. As Cullen aged, however, he looked back fondly at the redheaded Warden. She had made the right choice. And she had saved Ferelden—before making an excellent queen to balance out King Alistair. Nevertheless, she had signaled one of the most intense nights of his life, and Cullen had to take a sabbatical to recover from the scars he had been dealt. They had not been healed yet.
The second terrifying redhead came tumbling into his life making quick use of a bow and even quicker use of her mouth. Though “Champion of Kirkwall” was her official title, Hawke was enough. That walking collection of trouble saved the city, helped him in his job, hurt him in his job, and one of her best friends blew up the chantry before she took his head off herself—and then assisted him as his superior tried to destroy the city and the mages. He appreciated what Hawke had ultimately done in saving Kirkwall, even had had a few pints with the Champion and her best friend Varric Tethras, but he did not view her arrival onto any scene as a good omen.
Cullen assumed his only redheaded fire starter would be Leliana when he joined the inquisition and to Leliana’s credit, she was the epitome of self-sufficient and discrete, if a bit paranoid. Besides, being the Left Hand of the Divine did mean she at least had some honor for systems. Cassandra Pentaghast, the Right Hand of the divine, was thankfully brunette and no-nonsense. Josephine Montilyet was also blessed with dark hair and quiet ways.
Then a green hole in the sky appeared. The Chantry had been blown up, templars and mages slaughtered en masse, and the Divine whisked away into the Veil, only to have one survivor tumble out of it, replacing her. Cassandra and Leliana had placed her in a prison cell before anything could be done while an apostate elf tended to her wounds. For days, demons and spirits had fallen to earth while fresh green tears appeared everywhere. Cullen and his men were tired and overwhelmed. The received word that Cassandra and the prisoner were headed to the forward camps to rectify the situation, though Cullen was not sure of what use she would be. As he watched yet another soldier be wounded, Cullen stood in front and plunged his sword into a terror demon, wondering just how many times that day he had repeated this same action with an enemy that seemingly regenerated and multiplied. As he raised a glove to his head to mop the sweat from his brow, a flash of blinding green light flooded the skies. Suddenly, the tear was no longer expanding. The spirits around him and his soldiers suddenly were being pulled back into the ether and dissolving before their eyes. After quickly scanning the area, he motioned for his troops to head back with him towards Haven, keeping an eye out for stragglers.
A couple of hours later, he saw Cassandra descending the mountain with Varric walking next to her. They were both frowning and glancing worriedly behind them. Someone was walking behind them carrying something. As they came closer, Cullen recognized that the person behind them was the apostate elf. Cullen narrowed his eyes. The elf was taller than most of their kind. And broader too. Had he not been barefoot with pointed ears, he could have been taken for a human man. Cradled to his chest was a person—Cullen assumed the prisoner. Her head was in shadow for a moment, and then lolled back, revealing a snow white throat bared to the elf. Something in the elf’s gaze down at her made him uneasy. It was almost feral and predatory. And then they moved out of the shadow and into light.
Cullen started. The sun hit her hair just right illuminating long, coppery tresses against the snowy backdrop. He knit his brows together. Blast it.