She hadn't the foggiest what time it was.
The Inquisitor slowly blinked her eyes open, trying to gain a sense of the world that seemed lost to her slumber. Her dreams were either nonexistent or completely forgotten, in turn receiving the first good night's rest she'd had in ages. A hand was around her last good hand, and she turned her head on the pillow to see Cullen, head to the side, sleeping, finally. She cracked a smile at the sight, feeling comforted by his everlasting presence. Their new mabari had settled between her bed and his chair, slumbering peacefully.
Her mouth was dry, throat parched. She spied a glass of water on the nightstand next to the bed. She tilted her other half of her body, intending to grasp it with her free hand. After a split second's confusion, she froze at the reminder that her other was gone. She relaxed back in the bed, sighing and frowning at the half of an arm she had left. It still felt as if it were there, and she wanted to scream at herself, at the world, for its loss.
She silently turned her view back to the glass longingly. The mage bit her lip, trying to decide how to go about getting it without waking Cullen, how to remove her hand without disturbing him. "Magic?" she asked herself. Her mana reserves were low, not an uncommon side effect of being traumatically injured or ill; mages often had trouble summoning their magic at these times, and she was no different.
It was worth a try. Straining ever so slightly, biting her lip, she focused intensely on the glass. The glass wobbled on the tabletop, and she fretted that it might tip over. It carried a centimeter over the table in the air. Sweat dripped down her forehead as she pushed, fine-tuning her levitation spell.
A bark jolted her, and her concentration failed. The glass fell back onto the table, some water splashing out of the sides of it, but otherwise intact as it landed right side up. She glared at the mabari, who was sitting up, staring intensely at her. Cullen was beginning to stir, alarmed by the loudness of the bark. "What..."
The mabari let out a complaining whine at her, pouting. Cullen, now fully awake, smiled at his wife. "You're awake!" he greeted cheerfully. Dawn sighed and rolled her head to the side.
"Yes, and you are, too. I was hoping you could sleep in a little."
"Don't be ridiculous," Cullen argued, "I'm here to watch out for you. I told Angus to wake me up when you woke up. He sounded rather concerned about you right now."
"It's no big deal, really," his wife replied, grasping the glass with her now-free hand, "I didn't want to wake you up, and I liked that you were holding my hand, so I tried to use my magic to pick up that glass of water. Angus, apparently, disapproves."
Angus barked in agreement, huffing. Cullen laughed. "Apparently so. I don't think you should be pushing yourself, even using magic, before the healer says it's safe. You need to rest."
"As you say." She rolled her eyes, but smiled all the same. He examined the bad arm. "How are you feeling today? Still hurting? Need me to get a healer, food, water...dear?"
Her eyes had lingered back to her other arm. "It feels like it's still there. It feels shorter, and..." She groaned. "I can't lie to you. It's not there, but it hurts."
"Phantom limb," Cullen clarified, "it's common in amputees...I'm sorry to hear you're feeling its effects." He sighed. "Do you want me to fetch the healer?"
She scoffed. "What could he do for pain that doesn't really exist?"
"It does exist, if you feel it. Besides, you went through trauma yesterday; I'd be shocked if you weren't in pain." He looked to his mabari, who sat at attention. "Keep an eye on her while I fetch the healer. I'm leaving her in your capable paws."
Angus barked proudly, and Dawn laughed at the display. Cullen grinned at her laughter. "Cullen, please," she reassured, "I'm not going to die. Besides, you are leaving me in perhaps the most competent paws in Orlais."
The dog barked proudly, puffing his chest out in pride. Her husband laughed, kissed her gently, and then left for the healer. He returned ten minutes later, healer trailing behind him, who was carrying clean wraps and another poultice. "I need to replace your dressing," he clarified, pulling a stool that had been placed in the corner up to her bedside, "hold out your arm. Shouldn't take me too long, but the poultice will sting."
She silently obeyed, holding out the wound. Cullen stood by her other side, holding her hand again, as he did the night before. The healer carefully, slowly peeled the old cloth back, dabbed a clean cloth with poultice, and began to dab the wound with it. Dawn hissed in response; the wound did not hurt nearly as much as it did the night prior. The antiseptic pressed to her mostly open wound still stung greatly. She watched, not moving, as the healer began to wrap the wound with the new, clean cloth.
Finally, he stood up, pleased with his work. "You'll recover just fine, Inquisitor," he reassured, "much as I wish you had waited until you got back to the palace for the amputation, your men did decently." He clicked his tongue. "Your husband told me you tried to use your magic. I do not recommend using it right away; you need to not expend more energy than you must for now." He pulled an elixir from a knapsack slung over his shoulder. "Now, there's a pain-relief potion you can take, but you should eat first."
Her stomach growled at the mention of eating, and Dawn was all of a sudden acutely aware of the fact she hadn't eaten in hours. The healer smiled. "Looks like it's time for you to get something in your stomach, anyways. I've been informed there was a breakfast being held for certain members of the Inquisition off the main hall."
"I know where that is," Cullen said, "Josephine stopped by last night while you were asleep. She mentioned there would be a breakfast. You don't have to attend if you're not feeling up for it. I could go and get us food instead."
"In either case, I'll leave the potion here for you. Take it after you eat. Inquisitor, Commander." The mage bowed curtly and left. Dawn sat up, breathing become less pained.
Cullen pocketed the potion and turned to his wife, who was pulling herself off of the bed. He frowned. "Are you sure you're feeling up to this?"
"Yes. I'm hungry, and the air will be good for me." she replied stubbornly, heading for her drawers, searching for an appropriate outfit. She pulled out her usual outerwear Venture Forth, squinting at it. "You think I can get away with this outfit? It's not exactly formalwear, but I will be damned if I have to wear another formal outfit for an entire day here."
Cullen shrugged and pulled red formalwear out of the drawers beneath her. "You're asking the wrong person, I'm afraid. Damned if I know."
Dawn let out an exasperated sigh. "Better safe than sorry. The Coastal Fortress it is." she declared as she put the other outfit back and retrieved the formalwear. "I miss Skyhold. I can run around in the outerwear all I want."
Her husband quickly checked to see that the door was locked, and began to change into his outfit. He finished in a few moments and turned to see his wife still taking her time pulling the suit on only halfway done, slowed greatly by the loss of a hand. Her trousers were loose around her hips, with a belt partially pulled around. The top was unbuttoned as she struggled, her boots untied and waiting for fingers to knot them. Cullen moved in and finished up, pulling and buckling the belt, tying her shoes, buttoning the chest. Dawn had gone silent, shamefully looking away as her husband did everything for her.
Noticing the too-long sleeve on the left arm, he pulled a pin from the drawer and began to pin it to the rest of the sleeve. "It's not a permanent fix," he mumbled, "but it should do until a tailor can fix the sleeves..." The commander frowned, concerned as he took in a face full of shame. "Dawn, what's wrong?"
She shook her head. "Cullen, am I going to be a burden to you? Even with magic, I'm disabled, now. My magic will help when I can use it again safely, but I..." She sighed. "I should be able to dress myself, for Andraste's sake..."
Cullen pulled her head up, gently pushing her chin up. "Listen to me," he stated firmly, "you will never be a burden to me, not ever; I will always be here to help you. You helped me through my addiction to lyrium; let me help you, now." He grasped her hand. "I love you, and I always will. Nothing could ever change that."
A small smile graced her face, and she kissed him. "I love you, too. You big softie."
Her husband laughed. "Yes, well...I feel a little bad for saying this, but I'm glad your mark, your hand, is gone. I don't have to worry about losing you anymore, and you're not going to be in constant pain." He sighed. "Even before the mark began to overreact, you were in pain all the time."
"You helped, a lot," Dawn added, "I could endure it. Now...let's wash up and go fetch breakfast. I'm starving."
A plaintive bark got their attention. They turned around to see Angus sitting up, looking rather annoyed, and he pouted. He let out grumbles and whines that sounded almost as if he was trying to talk. They laughed at the display, which only made the dog angrier, and he stood up, barking indignantly.
"What? What are you saying?" Cullen teased. The mabari huffed, continuing to argue with him in his high-pitched grumbles and whines. "Are you hungry? Is that what you're trying to say?"
An affirmative bark was the reply, and Angus began to wiggle his tail, pleased with being understood. Dawn couldn't help but grin. "You need to use your words like a big boy if you want us to understand you! It's very unbecoming to be a whiner." she said, amused. Angus barked at her, huffing. She laughed again. "Calm down, I'm just teasing! You're still a big, strong boy! Yes, you are!" she cooed, kneeling down.
The mabari took advantage of her and rushed forth, licking her face. She groaned and grinned, giggling as she tried to push him back. "No! I haven't even washed my face yet! Maker damn it, Angus!"
"I think he's trying to help you by doing it for you." Cullen said, chuckling. "You should let him help."
"Oh, shut it. I need to wipe this off and put on my makeup before we go out."
No sooner than when Dawn and Cullen step foot in the banquet hall were they set upon by the others, all vying to see how their friend and Inquisitor was faring. The inner circle, the advisers, Scout Harding, Maryden, Dagna, and even the Chargers made an appearance, all trying to check on their leader.
Vivienne tried to move in to fuss with the pin on the sleeve Cullen put in, but she was cut off by several hugs given to the Inquisitor. Dorian, Sera, Bull, and even Cole moved in to embrace her in relief. Dawn choked as Bull pulled her in, suddenly understanding what Dorian meant by 'nearly crushing three of his ribs'.
Bull pulled back. "How are you doing now, Boss?"
She smirked. "I'm all right, now."
There was a moment's pause before Bull laughed loudly, patting her on the back. "We're both all right now, Boss," he chortled, pointing to his eyepatch, "we're practically twins now!"
Cole cocked his head to the side. "But you don't look anything like each other...oh!" The boy beamed. "He's missing an eye and you're missing an arm, both on the left side of your bodies! I understand now!"
Vivienne rolled her eyes and finally took the opportunity to fix her friend's sleeve. Varric just laughed. "Good, Kid. You're finally getting the jokes."
The court enchantress pulled away, eyeing the sleeve. "That will do for now. A tailor will fix all your sleeves in time for the council." She looked up to the Inquisitor, smiling. "You seem to be feeling better this morning. I'm thrilled to see it."
A dinner bell rang, and in the back of the room, a table full of breakfast foods, piping hot, with the smell of butter, bacon, coffee, and eggs tempting every nose, stood ready for the hoard. Orlesian servants moved from the table, save for one, who spoke.
"Breakfast for the Inquisition is served!"
Sera had to be stopped from running to the table by Cassandra, who grabbed her by the back of her dress. "Hold on. The Inquisitor had to get a traumatic surgery yesterday. She deserves to get her breakfast first."
"No, that's quite alright," she reassured, "I just want to sit down. You can go first."
"I'll get you breakfast," Cullen said, "just tell me what you want and I'll bring it to you."
His wife peered at the table. Pancakes, scrambled eggs, coffee, orange juice, bacon, sausage, and strawberries were all available. She looked back at him. "I'll take pancakes, strawberries, bacon, and a little of the eggs. Coffee, too, please, but you can get your food first." she said, in spite of knowing fully well that Cullen was going to ignore her and get her food first, walking up to a long banquet table and took a seat. Everyone else headed for food, and a servant attended to their mabari, placing a bowl of food on the floor for the thrilled dog.
Cullen came back with his wife's breakfast and set it down, left, and returned with his own food. The room became loud and chatty as everyone got theirs and settled down at the table, excitedly gossiping. At one end of the table, Bull slipped a piece of his bacon to the mabari, earning an exasperated look from Dorian beside him. "Maker's Breath, don't give the dog scraps," the magister scolded, "he'll start pestering everyone for scraps."
"Too late!" Bull chimed cheerfully. "A little scrap of bacon won't hurt him."
"That's not what I'm worried about." Dorian deadpanned as the dog began to go around, getting scraps from the other Chargers. Bull merely laughed as the dog continued his way down the table, poking and prodding everyone. Cassandra and Harding quietly passed the dog small scraps, looking amused. Cullen finally took notice as the mabari began to poke Sera, who frowned at the dog.
"I'm not even done eating yet!" she cried. Dagna merely giggled and slipped a small piece of sausage to the dog, who eagerly consumed it. Sera rolled her eyes while the dog panted happily. The commander scowled.
"No! Stop that. Bad boy!" he reprimanded. Angus whined and then barked at his master. "Absolutely not. You've had more than enough treats for one day." he retorted. Angus huffed and held his head down shamefully, and slowly walked past the others back to his master. He paused to give a look to Vivienne, who scoffed.
"You're not getting anything from me, hound." she snapped. Angus made no noise and looked away, continuing to walk away. He stopped when a tiny piece of pancake was held below the table in front of him. The dog looked up to see Leliana not making eye contact with him, though her hand proffered the treat surreptitiously. He took it just as stealthily as she offered it, chewing quietly. A look of love was given in return, and a hand stroked across the head was the response.
He finally made it back to his masters and laid down behind their chairs, putting his head down, huffing again. One last scrap of egg was held before his face, and he sat up and ate it, pleased. Cullen gave his wife an exasperated look, who pretended as thought she hadn't done anything at all. He sighed and did not push it.
Soon, when everyone was done eating and the room settled into a lull of talking and gossip, Dagna and Sera approached Dawn, who looked up from her chatter. Dagna was holding a brightly-wrapped gift box with a green bow on top, and talking died down as she offered it to the Inquisitor. "For me?" Dawn asked, surprised. "My birthday isn't for ten months..."
"Doesn't mean we can't give you a little something-something." Sera replied as her friend took the gift from Dagna. Dawn rattled the box curiously.
"What is it?" she asked, fascinated. Dagna giggled.
"Why do you think it's wrapped? Go ahead, open it." The Inquisitor raised an eyebrow and carefully peeled back the bow and paper, revealing a brown box with a loose top. She pulled the top off and gasped at the contents.
"Oh, sweet Maker," she breathed, eyes widened as she pulled out a small crossbow tied to an cup end to be attached to her arm, "it's a crossbow arm!" She squealed in delight, grinning. "Awesome! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Best gift ever!" The Inquisitor hugged both Dagna and Sera, who were smiling at her joy.
"Anything to see you smile this much, yeah?" Sera said cheerfully. "It was Widdle's idea."
"Sera helped me build it. Only took us a few hours, maybe." Dagna smiled. "What are you waiting for? Try it on!"
Dawn held it up to her left arm, eying the straps attached to it. "Um..."
"You strap it on like this. Let me show up." Dagna helped her strap it on, and everyone admired the brand new crossbow as Dawn proudly displayed it to the table. Bull whistled.
"That's badass. You can do your magic in one hand and shoot people in the other!"
Varric admired the crossbow. "Very nice," he agreed, "Inquisitor, I'll take you to the target practice later and show you how to properly use a crossbow. It'll be fun."
Cullen laughed. "You all know my wife so well."
"Now, we can do all the Jenny shite together! Best friends forever, Inquisitor." Sera exclaimed happily. Dawn laughed.
"Yes, yes we can. This made my day, so...thank you." She stood up. "You've all been here for me through it all, and I have to thank all of you." She sighed. "I have to tell you all something. I have...decided that it is time to disband the Inquisition, before Fen'Harel's or the Qunari's forces can corrupt it too much."
"Are you sure about this, Inquisitor?" Cassandra interrupted, frowning. "We may need their force to stop the Dread Wolf."
Divine Leliana shook her head. "Unfortunately, I think the Inquisitor is right. Solas knows how we operate, our methods, our agents...and we have all we need to stop him right here." she declared. "No matter if the Inquisition is gone. Together, we can still find a way to stop him before he ruins the world. Who among you will stand with us, with the Inquisitor, to stop Solas?"
Shouts and cheers came from everyone. The Inquisitor sighed and raised a hand, silencing everyone. "It won't be easy," she declared, "but we can work together quietly to make sure our world is safe. In spite of our differences, in spite of going in different directions, we can still work together through sending crystal and letters and meetings. I think everyone, all of us, should come together once a year in Skyhold, for a reunion. I will invite you all." She looked across the room. "No matter what, we will stop Solas. He is making a colossal, tragic mistake, and if we can, we will show him he is wrong. I pray he is not too far gone."
"What if we cannot? What if he cannot be reasoned with?" Vivienne asked. Dawn sighed.
"If we cannot, we will ensure the Dread Wolf will not succeed, even if it means his death. You have my word."
"Yeah!" Sera cheered. "Let's shove all the arrows up his wolfy arse! We can do this!"
A round of cheers filled the air as the Inquisitor sat down, already looking tired. Cullen at her seriously. "I will be here every step of the way. I won't let him ruin the world for his world. I have you, and I won't lose you or anyone I care about to him." He took her hand again. "You have my word."