Notes: So…there's this thing called work, and it's taking up…well, my entire life. I apologize. I do not wish to abandon anything I've written, so they're coming out slowly.
Cullen was surprised to see a chapel in Amaranthine. It was no secret that the Chantry did not welcome the Warden-Commander with open arms, but there it was, a small house with makeshift pews and a gaggle of Sisters promising guidance to those who came seeking to be Grey Wardens.
Anora had fitted him with armor from her guards, armor that did not bear the image of a Templar, so he passed amongst the crowds like any other destitute recruit.
"I am the will of the Chantry and my Maker," he whispered, kneeling at the pew. "You guide my path, and bless my weapon. I will clean Your land of the abominations."
"Those are promising words."
Cullen snapped to attention. A woman was smiling at him. She wasn't wearing Chantry robes, but Cullen had been around enough Sisters to instinctively get that feeling of guilt in his stomach.
"What brings you to Amaranthine?" she asked.
She was definitely not Ferelden, that Cullen knew. But then again, he suspected half the people in this town were foreigners.
"I am seeking the Warden-Commander," he answered.
"Ah, another lost soul trying to find your way, yes?" the Sister said. "It is not easy to—"
"No, I am merely here to kill her."
The Sister raised an eyebrow, but didn't flinch. "You are not the first to make such a threat against Commander Amell," she said. "None have succeeded."
Cullen shrugged. "Perhaps I will be the lucky one. You do not seem alarmed, Sister."
She laughed, and Cullen had to admit she was quite pretty. Her hair was a vivid red color and her features were light, very feminine; she probably was incapable of doing anything other than helping the sick and the poor.
"Again, you are not the first to come to Amaranthine with such ideas," she repeated. "The Grey Wardens are fierce warriors. And the Warden-Commander, she has the best bodyguard."
Cullen stood up. "I do not worry about her bodyguards, Sister. The Maker will guide me." He gave her a nod, and turned to leave.
"Bodyguard," she said, as he walked away. "Just one, my little, lost soul."
Cullen heard her giggle as he closed the door behind him.
Leliana watched the stranger walked away. She had not lied when she said many came seeking Amell's head. Many were left bitter after the archdemon had fallen, and Amell became a target for lost and angry individuals. But this one, she could tell he was different.
"To blame the Maker for his actions," she muttered.
"Lady Leliana?" a Sister asked.
"Oh, Sister Claire, just talking to myself," Leliana said, smiling. "But you must excuse me. I have business with Ser Arainai."
"Maker be with you, my lady."
"As with you, Sister."
The Grey Wardens headquarters was a large estate. Cullen wasn't sure of the specifics, but he had heard it had been awarded to the Wardens shortly after the archdemon's fall. It looked a little worn, like its previous inhabitants had left in a hurry, but there was definitely life in it.
He had just crossed the courtyard and he already counted at least a dozen soldiers, practicing archery and fooling around. He wasn't sure if they were Wardens or just recruits, but they were definitely flocking in all types.
The pain in the back of his head, like someone was twisting a dagger into his brain, started as soon as he was allowed into the front hall. Mages, he felt them, the magic running in the hallways and through the doors. Amell's sheep, runaways from the Circle and the Chantry.
"State your business." A man, heavy and tall, stared down at Cullen.
"I am here to see Commander Amell," Cullen said.
"Uh huh, and so is 'alf of Ferelden and Orlais, bub," the man said. "What are you, a recruit or a leech?"
"Did you get personally recruited, or are you 'oping someone will take pity on you?" the man groaned. "Look, pal, take it from me, being a Grey Warden ain't easy. There's a five to one chance you'll make it past the…tests."
"I am just here to see the Warden-Commander," Cullen said.
The Grey Warden gave him a look that clearly meant that was the wrong answer. "Look, Commander Amell doesn't see anyone unless you're either in 'er schedule or you're a Grey Warden, so run off."
Cullen's fingers itched to unsheathe his sword, but he wasn't stupid. He was pretty sure he could take this man, but others probably weren't far off.
"What about…leeches?" he asked. "Where do those go?"
The man sighed. "I point you in the direction of Captain Horace. But he'll make you run the gauntlet, 'is own personal test. You survive that, and by the looks of your scrawny ass you won't, you go through the Grey Warden test."
"Then I'm a leech," Cullen said.
The man shrugged. "Fine, I don't care. Your funeral, pal. Go down that 'allway, take a right and it's the second door. Lead you out to back where Captain will be waiting."
"And don't bother sneaking off," the man yelled after him. "You'll regret it."
Cullen stayed on track. There were too many doors, and none of them guaranteed he'd find Amell anyway. He could find Horace, jump through any of his hoops, and then get his chance at Amell when he went through the process of being a Grey Warden.
And he would not be making the same mistake he made four months ago.
Captain Horace is yelling at a group of men and women who look no older than teenagers. They look too thin and too pale, and Cullen knows they are probably all refugees who are hoping becoming a Grey Warden will provide them with a home.
"And who are you?" Horace barked when Cullen makes himself noticed.
Horace is a tall, bald man, with a moustache that looks like it was pasted on. His accent is too thick for Ferelden, so Cullen decides he is Orlesian.
"Cullen. I'm a…leech," he offered.
"Leeches?" Horace rolled his eyes. "Bloody Yawley. You're not a leech, idiot, you're a guppy. Well, you know what happens to guppies? I need to make sure you can fight. Make sure that sword you got there isn't just for the masquerades."
The Captain glanced at the other guppies, none of who looked happy at the idea of a fight. Cullen sighed. What circus was Amell running?
"If you do not mind, Captain Horace, it would be my pleasure to spar with your guppy."
Cullen turned. An elf was standing a few feet away.
Horace huffed. "I don't think you need bother yourself," he mumbled.
The elf looked directly at Cullen. "It would be an honor. He looks like a strong soldier, no?" He gave a slight toss of his head, and his blond hair seemed to excite some of the female guppies.
Horace shrugged. "If you wish, Zevran." He turned to Cullen. "Good luck, guppy, don't blink or won't notice his blade until it's lodged in your shoulder blade."