It would not go away, I tried all freaking week, but since playing dragon age 2 and having the scene where Cullen mentions Solona, I just….yeah. I am going to warn everyone right now that this is not a play through of the game and is in fact slightly AU, this really isn't about Hawke who will be shamelessly used as a plot device. Also I will be taking poetic license with a few things. If you cannot stand that, the back button is at the top of the screen :D
Also, please don't worry the next installment of Life on the Run will be up Thursday.
Rated M. I own nothing freaking Bioware and their lack of making Cullen a Romance Option, enjoy!
The salt of the sea stung at his already abused skin. He licked his lips quietly and tasted the tang and amber eyes scanned the horizon for some sign of anything beyond the vast floor of ocean. His joints ached from the bitter cold, but he reveled in it all the same. The stays creaked and groaned above him in a mirror image of how he felt. His coppery hair was lank and dirty, there was not much availability for bathing on a ship and the only way to even enjoy a decent bath would have been with the help of a mage. The man scowled darkly at the deep waters below him.
Up and down the ship went and back and forth.
He should have been glad. Really, leaving Fereldan was the best thing that could have happened to him after…Uldred. Cullen shook himself lightly for him more heated ponderings and chose instead to gaze at the bow of the ship that was taking him to the City of Kirkwall, more specifically his eyes were trailing the hawsehole. He had been sent with the utmost regard after his failings in the Circle; Cullen acknowledged somewhat irritated that he had been a bit rough with the mages this last year, however, he could not find the fault in that. He had grown to understand that the silly musings of a boy would have gotten him killed for believing that mages needed a softer touch. What had I been thinking? He snarled to himself bitterly.
However, he knew, as sure as the symbol of the holy Andraste lay carved on the plate of his chest, what he had been thinking. He had thought himself in love with a mage; the hero of Ferledan is what she had become. Perhaps, not all mages were horrid, but one lone mage out of thousands did not sound any better to the disillusioned man. Cullen tried not to think of it as banishment. He attempted not to recall the distaste on Knight-Commander Greagoir's face when he had been disciplined for the eleventh time for his conduct toward the mages under his care. In truth, Cullen had never harmed them, he might have…eluded to certain things, but it was hardly the same thing and had any of them been forced to endure what he had; Well, Cullen did not think that they would have balked too much then.
The hardened Templar tried not to think about the Hero of Fereldan, but inevitably, as it had always been whenever he reflected on Uldred and mages, she was in his thoughts again. By the Maker! I have not seen the woman in a year. I will most likely never see her again anyway, and still…STILL she haunts my mind. He had narrowed his eyes on the single cracked plank at the bow of the ship and muttered angrily under his breath. He was still slightly mortified that he had poured his heart out to the real Mage Amell. Granted he had been denied food and water. Also, one should have taken into consideration that there were demons frolicking through his every waking moment in that cage. Knight-Captain Cullen snorted without humor at the memory of Amell's stricken face when he had confessed everything.
It would have almost been better had I stuttered. He waspishly growled inside his head at the clandestine reality of what had occurred. Most of him regretted the harsh words that had spewed forward like so much filth about mages. Cullen might not have regretted the other parts, arguing for the first enchanter to be slain for example, but to treat the one that had saved him so ill had weighed on him. The man firmly decided that his reaction should have been gratitude and not condemnation as he gripped the railing tightly beneath calloused fingers. He drew in a deep breath of the salty air and calmed himself from the musings that only ever succeeded in making him feel worse than he had before. Cullen tried to deny the fact that he had wondered and half hoped Amell might come see after him once the Blight had been defeated, yet he had understood that her place was no longer at the Circle. He had acknowledged that is was for the best that they would never see each other again.
Because he most certainly did not miss her; he never had.
Though the pitching of the ship had often left him nauseas, Cullen had found the trip far more bearable out in the air instead of confined to his cabin which felt more and more like a coffin than a sleeping place. He swore to himself that once he landed he would never willingly set foot on a boat again. The Arch demon could swoop down and tell him that it would spare the lives of every person in the world if he would just get on a ship; Cullen would have just laughed and wished the blighter a hearty meal.
Up and down the ship went and back and forth.
Cullen had to admit that he was vaguely curious as to what this Knight-Commander Meredeth was like. Rumors had never done justice to anyone in his firm opinion. Even he doubted half of the things that were spouted about the occurrences during the Blight, however, without solid evidence even hearsay carried a bit of weight to it. The pitching of the ship over a particularly nasty swell had caused him to lurch forward and the Templar grabbed frantically tighter to the banister. I hate sailing. He moaned out loud as his stomach began to incite a rebellion against the constant motion. His mind reverently started with a defense against what could only have been termed an unpleasant action by repeating the first stanza of the Chant of Light.
"Kirkwall off the Port Bow!" A booming but worn voice echoed across the ship and Cullen whipped his head around and cursed loudly at his blunder. He had been at the wrong end of the ship. The Templar whimpered silently to himself as he moved his feet by sheer will alone against the boat which appeared to him to be possessed for it seemed to enjoy moving violently every time he took a step. Without mirth he had wondered if it were actually possible to smite a ship, he had his doubts yet he would never know until he tried. The mental imagery provided by the thought of his unleashing a holy flame on what was surely a demonic ship soothed his hackles somewhat.
The trip itself had been far from pleasant. Cullen knew he stank and being forced to clean his clothing in a mixture of stale urine and sea water did little for one's disposition. It would also be the second reason that he had avoided the other members of the ship. If his own foul stench was not enough to make him scrunch up his nose in disgust, it would have been that exact same smell worn on copious amounts of bodies. Then the food had hardly been appetizing. The meat had been so heavily salted he had been tempted to drink the saltwater surrounding them just to the taste out of his mouth. Cullen understood that it was the best and only way to truly cure the meat for a voyage; however, he would have been glad simply to eat the bread which had become infested with weevils. Even the writhing of the larva had not bothered him nearly to the extent that the meat had. Furthermore anything he had managed to stomach had refused to stay down with the infernal rocking of the demonic ship. The had even been traveling leeward, away from the source of the wind, for a good portion of the journey and still the ocean played with the ship akin to the manner of a child playing with a new bauble.
Knight-Captain Cullen had begun to think that staying at the Ferelden Circle might not have been so bad. He succored himself to the knowledge that if Kirkwall had been spotted then the time he had to spend at sea was drawing to a close. Thank the Maker. He thought with a little bit of dizziness as the sea stung at his cheeks once more.
Up and down the ship went and back and forth.
Knight-Commander Meredith gazed at him with steel eyes that bordered on what Cullen was certain was tenacity. He admitted that she was a rather striking woman for her age and service. However, he gave very little consideration to the matter past that. He had been met at the docks of Kirkwall and taken by yet another boat to the Gallows. It had been an incredible feat of strength for Cullen not to have lost what little food remained in his stomach all over the woman's boots. Frankly, had he been a mage he would have been intimidated by the woman, however, they shared very similar views and that had boded well with him. He had nodded with her comments on how mages needed to be confined, which was a fact neither here nor there, and he intended to do his best to serve her.
However, it was still puzzling about what had happened to the new Templar recruits and Cullen had come to despise puzzles. One of the recruits had come back, after such a prolonged absence he had instantly been suspicious. All reports given to him both verbal and written had stated that little was known as to why they had disappeared. It had been such a mystery that Knight-Commander Meredith had kept an iron fist on the information and had only shared it because she had been commanded to do so by the Grand Cleric. He had been both bemused and slightly offended at the need for such urgency.
Yet, it had still been a surprise that the man more of a boy really had come willingly with him to the only secluded area that he had been told about, which had unfortunately been the wounded coast. Smiting a ship had seemed a very real possibility at that moment in his mind. He had been at the end of his restraint when the coward had sniveled and begged not to be beaten. Cullen had not truly wanted to harm the boy, it was out of a sense of honor and duty that he struck him. There could have been lives at stake and what had occurred in the horror of the Circle clung to him still refusing to let go. The Templar took it as a warning to never forget what anyone was capable of and that did not restrict itself to mages. Even well-meaning men and women could destroy the very things they wanted to have if they were not diligent. Therefore it had been only out of want to save others that he had been so forceful. He had not wanted to see more innocent blood spilled about like a dropped goblet of wine.
The maker had a cruel sense of humor; he had come to believe that firmly the day Mage Amell had stepped out of that corridor and freed him. However, what he had not been expecting was the honeyed voice of someone that sounded oddly like her. For a single heartbeat he had feverishly thought that Solona was the one standing on the beach before him.
"Don't you lay another hand on that boy." His amber orbs snapped to her face and though there were characteristic about her that stuck out in his mind, it had not been Amell.
He had tried to warn the stranger prior to the demon making its appearance, but he had failed. The sloth demon had burst forth in a display of magic and power. Cullen had been surprised that the strange joined him in battle. The arching of blades and the splitting song of magic that was foreign to him rendered the air. The Templar within him gasped and tensed at being alongside a mage but as more demons summoned themselves into the plane of existence he was rewarded with little time to dwell on that staggering fact.
When it was over and the last body lay cooling on the white sandy beach, Cullen had tipped his head in thanks. Meeting this stranger who was also a mage, and so very much like a woman he used to know bothered him to no end. He paced slightly as the armor on his back had grown almost stifling as he stared into the face of a woman that while bearing striking resemblance to Amell was not even tempered like her. This woman was brisk and demanding with harsh inflections or crude humor. Yet, if he had stopped long enough to dwell on it, he would have known that the very reason he enlisted her help and shared his burden was because she bore that resemblance. It had nothing to do with her wanting to help or even that she was a capable fighter, but that she seemed familiar.
Well, that and he had a very hard time talking to the…ladies at the Blooming Rose. Even though he had changed greatly from his wide eyed idealisms, talking with women who did not have arms twice his size or the power to relieve him from his duties still tied his lounge in knots. It was also hard when those same…ladies would not speak with him for fear that he would shut them down. What did he care if men who were not even fully knights yet had carnal relations? It was not his place and quite earnestly it was embarrassing for him, fierce though he was.
Still, he had been impressed by the strange woman called 'Hawke' when she had brought back the last recruit alive. Though he had been alarmed by the terror coursing swiftly through his veins at the mention of blood magic, she had persuaded him to watch the boy instead of relinquish him back to the streets. Though he was loathe to do so, he was not without a heart and therefore in another display of benevolence, he kept Keran within the ranks.
It was only later, three years or so that he had spent in Kirkwall climbing the ranks, that he learned Hawke was from the Amell line. He did not watch her with the wistfulness and adoration that he had showered upon Solona, but she was special in her own way he supposed. It made sense that she would look a little like her if they were related. Or at least nothing that had been overly obvious for he did not believe them to be siblings. He had never recalled Solona saying anything about siblings when they had been tucked away from the cold reality of the world in those few precious days of innocent friendship. Hawke's face was too sharp and her features a touch too prominent, but Cullen would have sworn that they had the same nose and the same small grin that tugged upward at the corners only turning to a real smile that had looked more like the baring of teeth.
Time had taken its toll and with it came duties and responsibilities. He was given more people to lead and under his tutelage they flourished. His kindness for the mages had never returned to what it had been, but there was still a reserved sort of tolerance he granted them as days became easier and the nights not so foreboding. Hawke had become somewhat of a friend, even though he knew that she was technically an apostate, he had simply forgotten to mention it to the Knight-Commander. Knight-Captains were very busy people after all.
Therefore when he had seen her traveling through the Gallows during the morning rush as he had started to debrief the newest flock of recruits. "Hawke!" He called happily with a large arm emphasis thrown in just to keep him awake. "The new scion of the Amell family! Congratulations." His amber orbs dimmed slightly in fond remembrance of the woman he had tried not to wonder about every time he saw Hawke. "I knew an Amell once… She was a special woman never met her like again." A sad but bittersweet smile graced his features.
"You talk about me as if I had died." The impish tone made his blood turn to boiling water while his body mimicked that of a stone statue. The words he had meant to say died a swift and painless death on his lips as he slowly turned is head toward the ghostly vision to his left. The rising sun struck her chestnut locks and gave them honeyed highlights. Her hazel eyes stared into his with unfathomable joy and her sweet mouth, he had forgotten all about that mouth to the ravages of time and duty, quirked into a full blown smile.
"Pardon me, but my friend and I were talking." His gaze flickered to Hawke who wore an annoyed expression on her features that made her seem more fierce than he had ever seen her. He watched as her stance changed to a challenging threat that had his fingers itching to grab the pommel of his sword. Until he noticed Solona give Hawke an apprising stare and then her hazel eyes looked between him and Hawke before narrowing just a fraction of an inch but he had seen it.
"Really? I hadn't noticed, I thought you were just spouting random words and noises without actually convey anything as complex as speech." He noted that Solona's hair had grown much longer in the four years since he had seen her. Also, he was curious about the dwarf at her side who scratched himself and Cullen thought it a touch inappropriate to be doing such a rude action while his world was reforming around him. He had always observed that some people where just so inconsiderate.
"What a surprise, another person with a smart mouth." He watched Hawke growl slightly at the newest person in the conversation. Cullen could not help but perceive the visible change in Hawke's companions at her agitation. This could get out of hand. He thought to himself as Solona gave Hawke and indulgent smile.
"What can I say?" Solona arched a brow in a mocking smile that left Cullen slightly weak in the knees. "It must run in the family."
He saw Hawke stop short of her retort. Her lips opened slightly into a shocked and parted silent gasp. The sound of Solona's laughter tightened his stomach uncomfortably into knots and for a moment if felt as if he were back on that blasted ship heading toward Kirkwall.
"What? No hello for me?" The slutty pirate, Cullen had forgotten her name or rather aptly he ha never bothered to learn it, pouted at Solona sexily.
He watched surprise flit across her face before a warm smile and a enthusiastic reply tumbled off of her lips. How had he forgotten about her lips? "Isabella? Is that you? You look…different." He watched her hazel eyes scan Hawke's party with interest coming to land on a man the only human male in her party. "And Anders…How many people do you have in your circle of friends that I know? Sorry, how are you Anders?" Her voice dripped with concern and worry. Cullen told himself that he had not been jealous of her asking after the other man, it was simply hunger pangs. He had missed breaking his fast this morning.
"Warden Commander." The man named Anders mumbled and bowed his head. "Have you come for me then?"
"Warden Commander?" Cullen realized that Hawke had found her voice once more and her forest green eyes bored holes into the Grey Warden, making him wince just slightly. "You-You're the…." She trailed off helplessly and Cullen sympathized with her. He straightened himself and decided that pretending to be a statue seemed like an excellent idea given the unusual circumstances.
"Hero of Ferelden? Why yes I am. However, you can call me cousin or Solona take your pick." Cullen felt his jaw slacken at the news. They had been cousins? Maker, what had he done to deserve this…well there had been that one time when he was an recruit and the rolling pin but that should hardly count. "Come for who Anders?" She grinned at him and Cullen was struck by the hunger pangs again and he clenched a hand around the hilt of his pommel attempting to ignore the growling that was most assuredly coming from his stomach. "You're not even here."
The man Anders turned pale in relief and smiled warmly at Solona, Cullen was rather sure that man was an apostate too, and perhaps it was time for a raid on Darktown if he kept looking at her that way. He snorted in distaste, she was the hero of Ferelden and he needed to show the proper respect. "Then what brings you here?"
"Cousin? I don't have any cousins." Hawke interrupted in a state of near shock and her hair swayed when she shook her head in denial.
Solona's expression softened at the obvious confusion of the woman before her and the Knight-Captain of the Templars stoically tried to calm his raging heart. "Let me start over. My name is Solona Amell, and you are Marian Hawke correct?" He watched as Hawke nodded hesitantly. "Well, your uncle Gamlen... he is my father, according to my mother anyway." Her face was full of an awkward smile and small head duck as if it would make things clearer. "My fellow Grey Warden and I were on our way to take care of some business when I was asked by the Ferelden Circle to look into some missing mages." He watched a shoulder shrug slightly and Cullen added another similarity between them to his list. "Normally Grey Wardens do not involve themselves, but I was asked by a close friend to check into it and I thought that while I was here I may as well meet my father."
"I'm truly sorry then my lovely lady." Cullen blinked down at Varric who offered up a suave smile. "He may not be what you are expecting…exactly."
Solona laughed heartily at his gentle phrasing. "Now I am expecting a drunk or villain." She looked at her companion and Cullen saw the flush on her cheeks, he thought she still looked rather pretty, before he lent himself over to mentally hyperventilating again as he made sure to check that he was not caught in the web of some desire demon again. "Where are my manners? This is Oghren, he is my right hand man."
"I'm your man for many things Commander." The dwarf leered up at her and laughed making the reference all the more sordid in Cullen's opinion.
He watched Solona roll her eyes slightly. "Oh you sexy dwarven stallion, you."
"Clearly your cousin is blind." Varric stated openly and with a hint of humor marking his words.
"Shut it you sodding nug humper. Great, just what we needed, more men putting on women's jewelry." He watched Oghren sneer in distaste as he gestured to Varric's golden earring. "Must be a blonde madness."
"Ah, how I missed you Oghren." Cullen watched the apostate Anders mockingly sigh with relief and he contemplated his possible routes of escape. He idly wondered if shouting 'blood mage' at the top of his lungs would not be as painful as this.
"Commander we don't want to hold up meeting much longer." Cullen redirected his attention to the rude scratching dwarf once more whose bright red beard put Cullen's own coppery hair to shame.
"Oh! Then before I forget, Anders I believe this belongs to you." Solona reached into her pack and produced a ball of fluff that had Cullen staring at her as if she had just given birth to a mabari hound in front of his very eyes.
"Sir Pounce-a-lot?" The mage gasped and swiftly grabbed the bright orange fluff ball away. Her hands lay open in silent supplication toward the man.
"I heard that Nathaniel made you get rid of him while I was gone." Her smile was apologetic and hopeful at the same time. Cullen decided it was high time there was a raid on Darktown.
"But how…? I left him with my friend." The confusion lit his eyes plainly and Cullen watched Solona snicker.
"Who gladly turned him in for the reward offered by the Grey Warden Commander for a missing pet." Oghren lamented. "All that work for something that looks like it would make a tasty snack."
"Charming." Hawke stated but the corners of her mouth had tilted slightly and Cullen had been able to tell that she was not enjoying the banter.
"What do you say Grey Warden? Want to come back to the hanged man for a pint?" The slutty pirate winked languidly at hero of Ferelden and Cullen noted he was not the only one to glower at the woman. In his opinion that was both good and bad.
"After I meet with Knight-Commander Meredith, I would love to join you." She nudged her rude dwarf once. "5 sovereign says that my fellow Warden can drink you all under the table."
"This I have got to see." Varric stated challengingly and the mostly ignored Knight-Captain thought it was high time to make a tactical retreat into the depths of the Gallows. He inched one booted foot slowly along the paved ground and tried to shuffle his from the chatting group without alerting them to his departure.
"Cullen?" HE winced as the confused voice of the real Amell washed over him.
"Grey Warden Commander?" He saw that her features darkened momentarily and her gaze swung over to Hawke before she smiled a tad too brightly for his tastes.
"Could you please point the way to the Knight-Commander?" Her hazel eyes were looking up at him and his mind kept replaying scenes in the tower where they had still been confined to innocent flirtation and admiration on his part. The foolishness of still feeling that familiar pull when she was near after four years bothered him greatly. He wanted to help her, just to show that he was completely over any childish infatuation but the small smile she was wearing and the way her head tilted stilled his tongue.
"Erm…I have to…go." His feet had fallen heavy on the pavement as he found himself once more scampering away from her. It was not really scampering, but a far more dignified walking run because he was the Knight-Captain of the Templars of Kirkwall and most assuredly did not flee from a pretty mage as if she were the blight itself.
No, he never did that.