Everybody knew something was wrong as soon as Uldred returned. The entire feel of the Tower changed when he was marched back. The Tower had never been a happy place but it had been calm. An even feel of things. But upon their return from Ostagar, telling of the horrible defeat suffered, there was something deep and dark dwelling, swirling in Uldred. He had always been dangerous. But now it seemed to crawl just under his skin, slither beneath the pale flesh. Everybody knew that the trouble had been drug back from Ostagar, finding a host in Uldred. But they could do nothing. Not while the First Enchanter still stood as a shield before Greagoir, and Uldred standing behind the withering old man and laughing. No, they simply had to wait.

They hadn't needed to wait long.

Cullen had been standing at his post in the library for apprentices when it first happened. He didn't like this post, and had a tendency to doze off during it. Beside the fact that it was always so quiet, she had recently been through her Harrowing and rarely- and never during his post- traveled down to that library anymore. The apprentices themselves were usually harmless. A tad rowdy, a few still angry or terrified, but often enough nothing worth worrying about.

Most of the other Templars were on edge. Anders, perhaps the most troublesome mage, had recently escaped again. He had been angry, dangerously so- and not just the type that came out of months of solitary confinement. His elven girlfriend had been killed during her Harrowing, and he had not taken it well. Ser Rylock and he had always had an odd sort of spiteful rivalry going on. That she was there during the elf's Harrowing was enough to cause an uproar of conspiracy theories to arise. And it was weeks earlier than that Jowan had shown himself a blood mage, nearly killing Greagoir and the First Enchanter Irving in his escape. Uldred was happy to fan all the flames growing in the Tower, and it was not surprising that the others were so on edge.

It was more worrisome that Cullen himself was less worried, and perhaps sympathizing with the mages' motives.

But then he heard the screams and the bells. His eyes snapped open and he began telling the apprentices to go back to their rooms. The Tower was to go on lock down. The younger one's began crying and the olders one's quickly drug them back. Cullen glanced at his friends, his comrades, but they only shrugged. It was later, into the night, that he learned there were three blood mages on the loose in the upper floors. They had summoned a few demons. Two of them apprentices somehow snuck above. The other they were still hunting.

The hunt for the ringleader traveled long into the next day. Nobody had gotten any sleep, and it was catching up to them. The lyrium helped, but their armor was heavy, their stomachs empty, and the adrenaline had long since worn off. Cullen was sitting against the wall in the hall leading up. His helmet left to roll, hitting his armored boots- the only noise in the hall. Greagior hadn't given them any orders besides search.

They had found nothing.

He hadn't realized he had fallen asleep until he heard the heavy door opening. In a fit of panic he was on his feet. But the helmet rolled away and Cullen could only flinch as he glanced from it- now against the wall and taunting him- to Greagoir who was marching down the steps with Thain and Brennan. Greagoir ordered as he walked by, not stopping. "Tower is still on lockdown. Go get your rest."

Cullen nodded, relieved and yet guilty. He had already slept. But food, he thought, glancing up the stairs to where their bunks were. Food would be nice. Once Greagoir was gone he snatched up his helmet and made his way towards the kitchens. He was quite ahead of the others on his floor, but the kitchen was far from empty. He put his helmet at his usual spot, the two others there giving him a nod, and he made his way to the line. He licked his dry lips, stretching to try and see what was being served.

She was there, helping some of the tranquil serve. Tranquil were easy prey for demons. Even if they did not panic, if they could not get into the safety of a shield they were nearly defenseless against the demons. Nobody taught them how to fight. And the tranquil could be trusted to help with the search. The fact that there weren't enough Tranquil to serve the meal. It made sense for some of the mages to be helping out. It made sense that she, Amell, would be standing in the line, handing out food.

And yet he was surprised, and tried not to stare. She was a simple sort of beauty with dark eyes. As somebody far more poetic than he had put it, hooks for the souls. He had heard that- from another mage no less- when he truly was new. Back when it only created discomfort. Cullen didn't want to think about the feelings it'd create to hear those again. To hear another speaking of her with that sort of dreamy wonder now.

Andraste forgive him, he had fallen far.

Cullen turned to stare at anything else but her. At the way the mage robes clung sinfully against her curves. But his eyes were always drawn back to her. This time he found her expression, and the sullen way her lips were pulled tight and her downcast eyes. Unlike many of the other mages she was less scared of the Templars, but between the scare and the fact that most of the Templars weren't overly kind in return, it made sense for her to look so tired and sad. It made his chest feel constricted, tight, and something twist in his heart though.

And then her face broke out in the tiniest of smiles, and he realized she was glancing up at him through her thick lashes. He felt his blood rise and forced himself not to blush. It was difficult, but he had more than enough practice. He didn't speak though. He still stuttered. He felt ashamed because of what she made him feel. What she, a mage, made him do. And then he felt guilty because he was ashamed of these feelings. She deserved somebody who wasn't ashamed. She poured his stew in his bowl, making him jump. He quickly moved on.

Cullen spent the rest of the night and next day thinking about her. It wasn't unusual. He spent much of his free time thinking about her. Except now all he could think about was the sullen expression. All he could think about was the heaviness in her eyes. All he could think about was all the blood mages. He could see Uldred and his sick expressions. Cullen could see Uldred hurting her. Twisting her. And that caused Cullen to stay up late, his gut twisting and anger rising.

He always had too good of an imagination, they had always said.

It only took two days later for him to finally decide. They found a fourth stash, a blood mage stash. Cullen began planning immediately. It was wrong. Andraste forgive him, he was going to smuggle a mage out of the Tower. He wasn't going to stay for when Uldred finally made his move. Everybody knew the mage was going to. And that anticipation as going to be their down fall. He knew that. When he did strike there would be panic. Uldred was relying on that. He was creating enough turmoil to make them anxious, so that when he did strike, they would jump and flinch. In that second, that moment, the Tower was going to fall.
She, Amell, had to be gone by then.

Another story from the kinkmeme from livejournal. Prompt: So, say F!Amell/F!Surana was never recruited by Duncan (if any other Warden was recruited isn't relevant for the story) and some time before all hell breaks lose in the Tower (you know, due to Uldred and his entourage), Cullen decides to run away with the only person he really cares about besides Andraste, F!Amell/F!Surana.

So, this will be a tad slow to update here on f f .net since I'll be more worried to get it up on livejournal. But I'm putting it up here because I can. Hopefully I can finish this, maybe do a sequel I'm considering, and get up the story I still got on my hard drive with my pissy little elf mage up for all of your enjoyments.

Reviews appreciated.