The weather that night in the Hinterlands could have been better. Any weather could have been better than the storm Cullen now braved. The heavy rain clattered against his armor and slowed his pace to a crawl through the woods. He could barely see where he was going and the torch in his hand was dangerously close to going out. A whimper cut through the pounding rain, making Cullen shift his gaze to the mabari at his side.
"Don't worry, Bran. We'll find shelter soon." Cullen tried to reassure the war hound but Bran only replied with a shake. Splattering more water at the ex-Templar. Cullen sighed and tucked his cloak closer to him, the hood managed to keep him from being soaked but it did nothing for the cold starting to settle under his armor. He needed to find any sort of shelter or both of them will end up freezing to death before the morning came. Cullen went back to watching the horizon for any sign of life. And soon he was blessed by a small light in the distance, the light of a torch flickering in a window. It was a single cabin nestled among the trees, far away from any village, but someone was definitely there. Cullen dropped his extinguished torch and picked up his pace to a run. Bran followed close behind, eager to see their new destination.
At last they reached the cabin and despite the rain Cullen could clearly hear the sound of a crackling fire. Carefully he approached the door and with one hand on the hilt of his sword, he knocked.
"Pardon me, but may I take shelter from the storm here? I won't be any trouble." He asked. No answer came from the cabin, which made Cullen groan. He thought about huddling under the awning until morning, but the fire inside was just too tempting. Ever so slowly he reached for the handle but before his armored fingers touched the metal he halted. The hair on the back of his neck suddenly stood up and every sense in his body was on high alert. His suspicions were proven correct when Bran growled. Someone was behind them.
Before the warrior could react Cullen felt a sharp point press into his back, right between the silverite plates protecting his neck. His hand tightened around his sword as adrenaline pumped into his muscles.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." A voice rang clear over the rain that made Cullen's hammering heart beat even quicker. Even with the noise around them he recognized that voice. It was one he listened to for nearly three years, and the one he had missed for the past year. There was no mistaking that light accent under the demanding tone. Cullen released his sword and slowly raised his hands up in surrender. Bran too stopped growling as he studied the situation.
"Easy now." Cullen said. With that the figure seemed to falter, as if not expecting him to cooperate so easily.
"Turn around." The blade at his back released and he turned to face his attacker. He then found himself staring straight at the tip of the dagger. For a moment he stared at the weapon, but shifted his gaze to the cloaked figure. He could make out a few details thanks to the torchlight in the window. The rogue was much smaller than him-no doubt an elf-and she held him at knifepoint with the one dagger in her right hand. Now he was sure he knew this person.
"Inquisitor." He smiled. The figure flinched ever so slightly, but in a flash the dagger disappeared into the folds of her cloak and she reached up to pull down her hood. Oh Maker, Cullen thought. She looked just as striking as the day they said their goodbyes. Her large eyes shined like silver up at him when she met his gaze. Her hair was still midnight black, though much longer than before. Cullen's eyes traveled over to the small scar decorating her pale cheek and then to the one upon her lip. He recalled those days in the war room when she hovered over the map for what seemed like hours. Often his mind drifted as he studied her, curious to know how she got those scars. He never asked.
"Cullen?" She hesitantly asked. Cullen snapped out of the nostalgic memories and quickly threw back his own hood.
"It's been awhile." He softly chuckled in hopes of breaking the awkward feeling building between them. A hundred questions were starting to pile in his head. What is the Inquisitor doing in Fereldon? Why isn't she with her clan? Is she alright? Did something happen?
Before he got the chance to ask, Lavellan grinned and suddenly threw herself into his arms to give him the biggest hug of his life. Surprised and caught off guard Cullen only just managed to catch her by the waist. The force sent him stepping backward against the door so he squeezed her tighter to insure she was safely in his grasp. She wrapped her arm around his neck and returned the squeeze. Pure joy swelled in Cullen's chest as he embraced his friend. She was here. She was safe. And she was hugging him. The warrior couldn't help but be mildly aware of her breath on his neck, or the way her hand caressed his hair.
He tried to suppress the pang of guilt beginning to eat at him. Lavellan's heart belonged to that elven mage who helped create the now disbanded Inquisition. The man who ended up being what the elves considered a god of some sort. Cullen wasn't clear on the details of what happened between them after the Qunari attack a year ago. But he will forever remember the night after her party returned from the Arbor Wilds. Of how she entered his office with tears streaming down her newly bare face. He had never seen the Inquisitor cry before then, or even after that. He was the only one she trusted enough to show that side of her. Just as she was the only one he trusted enough to show his weakness while he had fought the lyrium addiction so long ago. Cullen offered his heart to her that night and listened to everything she was willing to tell. By the end of it the little elf had fallen asleep in his lap. It was a night they never spoke of again.
The hug between them went longer than it should have, but Cullen didn't complain. At last, Lavellan broke away.
"You're wet." She frowned. The comment made Cullen laugh so hard that she bounced in his arms.
"Well, if you had let me in instead of planting a dagger in my back then maybe I wouldn't be so wet." He grinned.
"Ah...right. Then come in, come in! I'm sure you're cold." The elf ruffled Cullen's soaked hair playfully before he finally let her down.