“Though all before me is shadow, yet shall The Maker be my guide.”
A hushed voice broke the morning’s stillness, its untried, rusted tones reverberating off the chilled, stone walls.
“I shall not be left to wander the drifting roads of the beyond.”
The freshly risen sun carried with it no heat, but its cool light sighed between the ornamental hatches of the tall, narrow windows, where it fell upon a carven woman. The air appeared to dance about her, like a gentle snowfall.
“For there is no darkness in The Maker’s light, and nothing that he has wrought shall be lost.”
He was bent to one knee before the stone figure, head bowed towards the ground, his gaze unwilling to meet the woman’s open arms and kind, placid features. It was a caution built on admiration. A caution built on respect. A caution built on fear.
The amber glow of candlelight flickered about his face as he repeated the prayer. It was practiced, precise, and after a lifetime of rehearsal, it would not fall short of perfection. It was familiar, and it was comfortable. In dark times he couldn’t help from clinging onto it.
Cullen was worried about the Inquisition and the direction it was heading. They were accepting help from allies they had little reason to trust, housing known fugitives and criminals, they were even sided with the rebel mages, an enemy they’d been fighting not long before. He wanted to trust Trevelyan’s judgement, he wanted to trust Lelianna’s reassurance and Josephine’s optimism. But it was… Difficult. Not one year before Cullen had watched Kirkwall’s Circle fall apart. He witnessed the devastation a single apostate mage could produce, and had to fight his way through the resulting catastrophe. Demons, abominations, blood magic. All too unpleasantly familiar. More innocent people falling victim to dismemberment, more friends torn apart before his eyes. He remembered how he felt. The memory itself ached. She was right, I was right. It’s happening again, it will always happen again…
But then, the betrayal. Treachery and tyranny by she he was meant to trust, meant to follow. A decade of lies unfolded in that single despairing afternoon. He was only able to doubt for a moment. How could she. How could I…
The decisions he made that terrible, desperate day were made in seconds. People, however, cannot change in seconds.
He knows he has to let go, leave the past be and move on. Allow himself to start anew, turn a new leaf. Again. It’s why he left his post, left the Templars, left the Chantry; left all that he knew behind to devise this, this absolutely insane exploit.
I came here to clear my head, not fill it with more worries. He sighed, his daily headache settling in already. They came easily these days. I will support the inquisition to whatever means necessary. We will close this breach with the help of our allies, allies who are ready and willing to lay down their lives for the cause.
With that he stood up, already hearing the soft foot falls and whispers of the early rising Chantry sisters, who were just now preparing for their morning errands. He made his way down the open hall towards the large, formidable doors. His back was straight, his steps were even and calculated. Even his stride was measured and powerful despite the minute twinge in his legs from having been kneeling. This was his role now, his place. None shall see me falter. There will be no room for misjudgements this time. Failure is not an option.
“Commander Rutherford, is it?” Cullen recognized the voice; theatrical, confident, and always just a little louder than necessary. He slowed to a stop and turn and face the other man.
“Yes. And you would be Lord Pavus, I presume.” He answered politely. They’d never spoken directly before.
“Ah, yes! The pernicious Magister of the Tevinter Imperium, here to infiltrate your forces and rob the Inquisition dry of all its strength and resources.” The man projected. Rather absurdly, Cullen would note. “But Lord Pavus is my father, and lucky for you, he has no interest in your Inquisition. You can call me Dorian.” He folded his arms, apparently finished.
“Dorian, then.” There was a pause.
“Do you always look so…” the mage lifted his hand from the crook of his elbow and gestured halfheartedly, “Irate?”
“What?” Cullen frowned indignantly at the accusation.
Dorian smirked, there was laughter in his voice, “I see. Well I’m sure you’re busy, Commander. I better not keep you.” And with that he slid away in the opposite direction. Cullen stood still as he watched Dorian leave, blinking dumbly and wondering what had just happened, and what could have possibly been so amusing to the exuberant mage.