Author`s Note: Here's one of the DA stories I promised would eventually make an appearance. I know Cullen seems rather out-of-character but I can assure you it'll all make sense soon. This story will run parallel with the other one, which will be a Cousland tale. Anyhow, I think my next update will be a Dark Incursion chapter. Oh and a little warning this first chapter includes some mature intimacy, just to let you know.
I. THE FORBIDDEN PROLOGUE
Cullen had only noticed her in passing, sitting quietly among the leftover candlelight from an earlier service held by the chantry. She sat posed in the front pew, an unusual location for someone up this late in the night. As for the young Templar himself, his excuse was his inability to fall asleep with a busy conscious. So, to clear his head, Cullen left his quarters to take a stroll through the tower. Hopefully, wandering around would have him grow tire and he'd be crawling back into his bunk sooner than later. Something was different that night. Instead of calling to her in a hushed voice to return to her room, he checked the corridors for Templars on duty and then stepped across the doorway.
The chapel was rather beautiful in the absence of heavily armored Templars keeping a strict eye on mages about, while women of the Chantry were knelt in continuous prayer. But at night they were all gone, and the dancing candlelight left a romantic glow on the statues and drapes decorated about the chapel. Then there was the silence, a quietness he was only familiar with from his childhood; he lived in a farming community and would watch the stars at the dead of night when everything in the world appeared to stand still. Tonight felt like those long lost nights.
As quietly as he had entered the chapel, Cullen carried the torch that had been guiding him on his nightly adventure over to a pillar in the room and placed it securely into the iron holder. When his hands were free, he approached the dark silhouette centered in the front pew in the shadow of a stone statue. If he hadn't safely assumed her identity already, the Templar would have been surprised to find an apprentice sitting properly with her eyes closed and deep in thought. Cullen was struck by her unusual demeanor as a soon-to-be mage. While most would do anything to free themselves from the circle walls that bound them here, she had a calming acceptance of her fate.
His bare feet scarcely made a sound as he padded across the cold stone that laid the floor, capturing a glimpse of her face as he rounded the first pew. The serene calmness of her ivory face swept away all the worries that had stirred him throughout the night, an effect she most often had on him whenever she was near. "Isn't it a little to late for you to be out of your chambers miss?" There was no friendly exchange of greetings or even a smile to pass along as the both of them gazed upon one another in a lazed expression. Cullen didn't know why, but with her he didn't nervously stumble across his words or come across as a babbling fool, as he usually did.
"I'm afraid I can't slip into the fade tonight." Whenever Astrid spoke it was in a coolness and calmness that you'd have to hear to understand, almost as if she had undergone tranquility but held on to her emotions. Cullen was sitting beside her, taking notice to the apprentice's nighttime attire: a short linen tunic and silk robe. She turned to face him again, just as emotionless as before, "I see the same goes for you too Cullen."
Again in dazed confusion, Cullen didn't understand the flood of anxiety that overcame him when she said his name. Astrid had said it many times prior to this time, but the feeling only grew worst the more she did. He had to move this conversation along. "A lot has been on my mind recently," he said in an oblivious whisper, speaking to himself rather than out loud.
The young templar had been informed during his supper that in a fortnight he would be the Templar assigned to cut down the apprentice, should he fail his harrowing. The impending task had cause Cullen immense dread and many sleep-less nights. He never imagined he'd be the one to bring a man to his end, at least outside of the Blight raging across Ferelden outside the tower. Cullen thought himself to be a forgiving, upholding the justice type of Templar; he was an avid believer in second chances. A shaky breath from his left brought him away from his worries and back to Astrid, whom was staring hopelessly at the statue, almost in prayer.
Cullen watched as Astrid Amell breathed in deeply, catching herself slip. She was incredulously trying to suppress emotions she was on the verge of exposing to him, and she was using all her might to seal them. Of course he could tell, underneath the armor and shy stammering of a fool was a very observant fellow. As much as his subconscious was begging him to comfort her, Cullen understood he needed to wait for her to speak at her own accord. Which she did, after a long moment passed of silence.
"First Enchanter Irving has informed me of my Harrowing," she said weakly, still trying to mask the obvious fear. Cullen felt his stomach jump. Was she to be the apprentice he was assigned to slay should she fail? He had never felt so sick before. Of all the apprentices, why did it have to be her?
"In a fortnight?" he asked, desperate for an answer. Astrid's head turned to him slowly from realization, her mask crumbling as Cullen shook his head in disbelief. "No, no, no," he was whispering under his breath.
Suddenly he heard sobbing, and turning his head back towards her, he saw glistening streams of tears streaking down Astrid's face. Cullen had never seen her so afraid and she tried to hide it by burying her face in the palms of her hands. He could still painfully hear her crying, choking as she tried to stay hush in the echoing chapel. "I'm so scared Cullen," she whimpered in a series of tearful words. "The last three apprentices before me were all killed for failing! How can I possibly beat the odds."
Astrid was right, more apprentices were failing rather than passing in recent Harrowings. Which was only a concern for Templars like himself, but for awaiting apprentices, it was an incredible scare. Cullen was at a loss for words. The Templar in him wanted to 'wish her luck', but the friend in him was rather concerned, and more afraid of the outcome than he needed be. He had never seen Astrid cry until now, or any woman for that matter. But seeing her cry now was unsettling. Her usual collected self had faltered in his company and it was stirring something within Cullen he had never felt before. As a result, in a near heartbeat, the young Templar had stroked her cheek and kissed her watery salty lips.
What Cullen was feeling he had only felt in a dream before, and he had dismissed it to be just another strange dream. But in that second he had touched her lips for the first time, he knew it was entirely something different than another dream. Cullen pulled away trembling, regretting his emotion as he turned away from her. He had crossed that distinct and dark line that had been drilled into him since his training. Templars were forbidden to engage with the mages intimately. The Templar recoiled to the end of the pew, hanging his head in worry and guilt. He knew it was probably best he left, but he couldn't bring himself to leave.
"Cullen," Astrid gasped in disbelief. Cullen could hear that he had caught her off guard and it had caused her tears to seize momentarily. As much as he wanted to avoid her gaze, he brought himself to look at her again at the syllables of his name on her tongue. Her hand was reaching for his and immediately he pulled it into his lap, stunned by how she responding. The apprentices hand fell back into her lap too, and as Cullen looked away from her, she look away from him. "So I do disgust you templars that much?"
He wanted to say no, but his lips couldn't shape the word. Cullen watched as she began to cry again, this time more composed so that only tears were streaking down her cheeks. Astrid closed her eyes tightly and spoke, "What am I saying, I am disgusting." In all the years he had known her, not once had he ever heard her speak with such distain and hatred. It hurt to realize she spoke hatefully of herself alone. "I'm a bloody stain on my family's name." Cullen watched her teeth grit together and as she clutched at her robe with balled fists. He knew that Astrid had been left for the circle as a newborn, abandoned by her family to spend her entire memories locked away in the tower like a fairytale princess.
Suddenly he felt unbound by his tongue and answered her cruel words with comfort. "Astrid...," he moved to her again, he boldly took both her hands within his own, crossing the boundary for the second time. She looked at him surprised, face glittering in the dying candlelight. "You- You have never dis- disgusted me..." he was breathing hard, beginning to return to his nervous stuttering. "In- in fact," he went on, "I'm rather-" Cullen didn't know how to put his hidden feelings into words, after so long of denying them. He glanced nervously at the floor and looking up he noticed Astrid was shortening the distance between their faces. "I'm rather-" he muttered again as her lips found his.
The red lips he had subconsciously watched grow plump for years were salty and still wet as he covered her mouth with his. Their kisses were long and gentle, both Cullen and Astrid novices to how they truly felt for one another. Cullen reached to stroke her cheek, pushing back a curly strand of dark hair behind her ear. His other hand touched her now exposed thigh, cold from the night air and soft. From touching her his fingertips tingled, something he had heard sometimes happened when a mage was excited and their control over magic began to loosen.
Cullen reached for her silk robe, sliding it carefully over her shoulders and down the length of her arms, parting their clinging lips momentarily to see her cloudy eyes. The young Templar felt entirely intoxicated, not in the drunken manner, but when suddenly nothing in the world could penetrate the dream-like moment he was living. He could feel Astrid tremble from his touch as the gazed upon one another and he began to lead her to the floor. Her robe he was sprawling across the cold stone flooring as she joined him, supporting herself with his shoulders as she slowly knelt before him.
Crawling forward, Cullen embraced her lips again and gently pushed her down over the blanketed robe. He could see her cheeks redden under the light as her hands left his broad shoulders and caressed the outlines of his chest through his tunic. Lost in light of lust, Cullen sat up on his legs and grabbed for the frayed end of his tunic, pulling it wastefully over his head. He watched her reach for him, as he pulled her up by the waist to place his removed tunic beneath her head. Then they were kissing again, with a little encouraged passion as Astrid clung to his arms and Cullen began to move her tunic up and over her curvy hips.
She sat up with him to help relieve the stress of removing her tunic on the ground. As soon as it had sprung from over her head, Cullen was as speechless as he had been this entire time; but there was no need for words. Astrid's beauty beckoned him to her and soon he was flush with her flesh, as she wrapped her arms around him for warmth. Her warm breasts pressed to him sent another fit of tingling sensation where their skin met and Cullen found himself kissing her more deeply, dipping his tongue into her mouth as she responded in clinging tighter to him. Cullen begun to lay her down again as she moved to hug his hips with her legs. He couldn't untie the draw strings of his pants any faster.
Out in the corridor, where an exhausted Templar guard trudged about saw a fire flicker between the parted doors of the chapel. He paused curious of the torch hanging on the wall, but his interest was satisfied when he recognized the remaining candles from the evening service. So he continued along his route, unknowingly turning a blind eye to a Templar and Mage making passionate love within the shadows.
JULY 12—Just started the sequel, check out A Dangerous Game!