Hello all! Yes, it is an update! My daughter has returned to school so I have more time on my hands. I apologize to those of you who never received a reply from me.
A big thanks to NoMadka for the nudge. :D
Please keep in mind that time passes without me documenting every single day and I want to finish this story before it hits the 2 year mark. That doesn't mean I am putting less effort into it. On that note, I hope this chapter makes sense. Action is a pain in the butt to write. What you read at the end gets explained in the next chapter. Muwahahaha.
Chapter 50: To Kill a Templar
It was always the same. Every evening mages poured out from the shadows and into the torch-lit streets to battle. Cullen could not make sense of it. The first report of the odd incident was sent by the guard-captain, Aveline. She declared it to be a templar problem since her men were not equipped to deal with a horde of mages. Cullen was certain that it was an exaggerated event. The idea that mages were openly fighting each other on the streets of Kirkwall was preposterous.
The first night, Cullen and his templars stood watch over the docks. The fighting was reported to be the heaviest in that district. As soon as the sun set, mages walked into the open, unafraid of the templar's presence and an argument ensued. That was when Cullen wished he had taken Aveline's warnings to heart. These people were dangerous maleficarum, mages who lived outside of the authority of the Circle, and some used blood magic. There were two distinct groups. One was clad in unusual armor, and wore cloaks emblazoned with a phoenix. The other was comprised solely of Tevinter mages. He had discerned that much from their rich embroidered robes and ridiculous hats.
Cullen had ordered his men to charge against both groups of mages. But before they could close the distance his men were paralyzed by those that bore the phoenix. No templar was harmed; instead, the mages concentrated on trying to annihilate each other. Always, without any casualties or the use of blood magic, the phoenix mages won.
But tonight was different.
The Tevinter mages were the lone group, and they, unlike the Circle mages who feared the Knight-Commander's wrath, laughed in the faces of the templars. They called forth demons and cast spells of such might that within minutes all but one templar remained: Knight-Captain Cullen. He sat upon the ground with his hand pressed firmly against his wounded side. Nine magisters approached, ready to torture and kill him. Cullen found the strength to lift his sword and point it at the magisters, but even he knew his threats were hollow. His eyes closed and his blade fell from his hand as he began to pray to the Maker.
It was then, as he whispered his last reverence to Andraste that a woman emerged from the shadows. She stood in front of the statue of the Champion of Kirkwall, her body haloed by the blue flames of the statue's torch. It was impossible to tell if she was friend or foe, but Cullen was certain it was no mage. Another innocent was going to die because the Knight-Commander had not deemed the threat worthy of her attention. She had ignored his request for more men, instead she focused on rooting out imaginary blood mages from the Circle. If ever Cullen was considering a career change it was now.
The Tevinter mages turned to the lone woman. Lightning arced across the sky in great flashes behind her.
A magister stepped forth. "You should run while you can," he said. "Make certain to tell others what you see here tonight."
A deafening crack from a sizeable bolt of lightning forced the mages to cover their eyes. What Cullen had believed to be the start of a storm now jumped and sparked on the ground, around the mysterious person. The woman held out one hand and from it a blue flame emerged mirroring the one held by the statue. Cullen had been wrong; it was a mage. But he believed the grand entrance was for naught. One mage against nine magisters was nothing more than tomorrow's fish food.
The lightening died away to reveal two more mages. They began to walk casually towards the magisters without falter. In the middle of the courtyard they stopped, and by the light of a flame Cullen could finally see the bodies of the three mages. Their faces, however, were hidden by black cowls.
The magisters addressed the three in their native tongue. But there was no reply. They continued to spout their threats in every language they knew, ten in all by Cullen's count, but still the three mages remained silent. When at last the magisters grew impatient, all nine cast dreadful spells. The dust settled, the sound of their magic dissipated but nothing had changed. The three mages stood unharmed. Cullen began to wonder if the Maker had answered his prayers. Perhaps these were his servants sent to vanquish those whose ancestors had darkened the Golden City and killed the holy bride Andraste.
"What did I just step in?" One of the three mages asked. The voice was feminine. Cullen smirked when she leaned over and examined her boot. Whether it was from relief or the absurdity of the gesture in light of the situation, he was uncertain. At least he would die with a smile on his face.
The leader of the three mages outstretched her arms and a wave of ice engulfed all nine magisters. Cullen was unsure whether he should start to pray again or pass out. Two of the mages aimed their mana at the leader and the blue streams were absorbed. Cullen was uncertain how it was possible for a mage to absorb mana from another mage. Of course, he had been trained to immobilize mages, not make them stronger. The female leader made a fist, and with a sudden jolt, a large stone fist flew across the courtyard and shattered the bodies of the nine magisters.
But it wasn't over. Mercenaries poured out of the alleyways intent on killing the magister's assailants. The leader of the three mages mixed fire and ice together; the result was a thick layer of fog. Cullen sat stunned. He had never seen a mage cast two different types of magic at once.
The clank of metal washed away his amazement. Arms and legs broke through the fog as the combatants swung and pushed against each other. Electricity, fire, ice and stone streaked across his line of vision and hit man after man, until finally only a group of five remained. Before him, the three mages stood in a fighting stance.
The female leader shot a round of sharp stone from her hand and pinned one of the mercenaries to a wall. Another mage, collapsed the wall on top of the mercenary and walked calmly back to the leader. The timing was precise and the movements were deadly.
"Amelia, did you have to destroy a whole building to kill one man?"
"No, but I wanted to," she answered.
The leader approached the lone templar. Cullen was too weak to move and so he accepted whatever fate may come without a fight. The three mages were clad in tight fitting black leather woven with thin strips of silverite chainmail. No robes or staves? Cullen marveled.
"What do you want with me?' Cullen asked. He managed to sit upright.
It was then that Cullen saw his rescuer clearly for the first time. Half of her face was covered by a black mask but the other side was painted with a red design, a design he knew well. It was the Amell crest.
"Hawke?" Cullen whispered.
Marian could not decide if his face had grown white because he believed he was seeing a ghost or from blood loss. She brought her lips to his ear. "I think we need to have a little chat, Cullen."
Cullen touched Marian's hand. "But I thought you..."
"Were dead?" Marian said. She cocked her head towards her two companions. "Take him to the boat and see to his wounds."
Sol rubbed at the wrinkles creasing his forehead. They were deeply furrowed like the waves before a hurricane. "Are you sure you want to save this bastard?" Cullen, the mage-hating bigot, had turned a blind eye when Ser Alric had made beautiful female mages tranquil. They became his mindless fuck puppets. Sol grabbed Marian's arm. "You know what he has done."
Marian did not have a strong attachment to Cullen but he was needed. He was the man who was going to provide her with a templar army.
"I understand your hesitation, Sol," Marian said. This was a delicate subject. A reunion between Cullen and Sol was not going to be pleasant. "Look at it this way: if he refuses to help us, I will kill him. If he tries to hurt you or Fenris, I will kill him. If he cooperates, I will allow him to live but only after you get the opportunity to roast his balls. Deal?"
She had a way with words and they made Sol smile. "Deal." His head gestured to Cullen. "Let's go before I change my mind."
Marian rubbed his shoulder for reassurance. There was nothing in writing, but Sol knew she would carry through with her threats if Cullen proved to be a liability.
"By the way... has anyone ever told you that you look great in leather?"
"Flattery will get you everywhere Marian," Sol said and he winked. His features soon turned dark as he examined Cullen's wound. The body of templar looked weak and meager in the dim torchlight. One spell or a small slice with a dagger would rid Sol of him forever. What is it that makes one man a murderer and another capable of compassion? Do I stay my hand because it is just or because I have always been made to believe that a templar's life is more important than mine? I could kill him. Isabela would understand. Marian would not, but she would forgive me. I suppose the question is: do I want to kill him?
Once he finished battling his psychological demons, Sol realized that he was a healer by nature and no amount of hatred could completely diminish his compassion. Many would have taken the opportunity to kill the templar. It would be sweet revenge, but Sol supposed that was the first step towards breaking his moral compass. It seemed that killing Cullen would prove the templars right, their assertion that a mage is incapable of being trusted.
"I will grab his feet. You take his head, Amelia," Sol finally said.
Amelia eyed Cullen's body and then Sol. She had been busy looting bodies for information. It had been a fruitless exercise. None of the Tevinters were carrying documents.
"What?" Amelia said. She rose from the ground and walked to the foot of the templar. "I can use force magic to carry him."
"I think it would be best if we try and keep a low profile," Sol said. "A floating body is going to attract too much attention."
Amelia crossed her arms over her chest and sighed. "And I suppose carrying a templar horizontally to the docks will appear to be a more normal mode of transportation?"
"Do whatever is the quickest," Marian said. She was concerned reinforcements from the templar order would arrive soon, or worse, Meredith. "Let's go."
"Would you like to be the one to paralyze him?" Amelia asked Sol.
Sol and Cullen's eyes met. The templar had expected to see the same obedient stare he had observed for years, but Sol had changed. The mage stood confident, defiant even and instead of looking away he glared.
"It would be my pleasure," Sol said. He cast a paralysis spell before Cullen could object. The templar lay frozen in place, his expression still held a look of surprise. "That was satisfying."
Amelia leaned over and closed Cullen's eyelids and mouth. "Sorry, ser templar but I refuse to stare at your fish face all the way to the boat." With care she raised and pushed Cullen's body through the streets of the docks. Two drunks commented on the spectacle along with a prostitute and homeless man. Marian knew that the authorities would ignore any reports of a floating man from these people.
"Should we put a blanket over him?" Marian asked. She looked down at Cullen's prostrate floating body and laughed. "All we need is a tablecloth and we could have tea service on him."
"Boiling hot tea and Cullen. Sounds like a recipe for fun," Sol added.
"You know he can hear you," Marian said.
Sol looked down at Cullen and gave him a wicked smile. "Good."
Marian held up her hand and signaled for them to stop. She could make out Isabela's figure against the ship's torchlight. But the unexpected silhouette of a second person gave her pause.
"What is it?" Sol whispered.
"Is that... Varric?" Marian asked. "How did he know we were here?"
Sol smiled. "Why... his army of Elven urchins probably told him."
"I do not have the luxury of chatting with a nosey dwarf right now. I have a templar to torture," Marian said. She gestured to Amelia. She nodded and continued on to the ship with Cullen in tow.
"Varric will not leave you alone until you speak with him. He is going to find out about you and Fenris," Sol said. "The sooner the better if you ask me.
"I did not ask you. You always tell me something I do not want to hear," Marian said. She playfully pushed Sol forward. "Go catch up with Cullen while I entertain Varric. And Sol..."
Marian waggled a finger at him. "Play nice. I need him alive."
"For now," Sol said.
He left Marian standing alone in the dark pondering the likelihood of Cullen's untimely death. At least Amelia isn't a threat. Wait... didn't she say that the templars tried to make her tranquil once and failed? Marian debated what to do for a mere thirty seconds. Oh a little torture never hurt anyone. I should let them have their fun.
As Marian walked across the gangplank Varric began to wave. "Chuckles!"
"I am busy Varric," Marian said. She pointed to Isabela and then the anchor chain. "Take us out of sight, towards the Wounded Coast."
Varric walked to the cabin door and blocked the entrance. "Oh no you don't, Chuckles. Or should I say the old ball and chain?" A large grin filled his bristly face. "The things you two get up to when I'm not looking."
She could not restrain a smile. "I promise that once I am finished with Cullen, I will tell you all the sordid details."
"That reminds me, where is the blushing elf?" Varric looked haphazardly around the ship as if he expected to find Fenris lazing about. "You know, it's not just me who wants details. Aveline demands you explain yourself."
Marian pointed downwards. "Fenris is below deck."
"The best things always are," Isabela said in a sultry voice. She sauntered towards Varric and Marian with a crooked smile on her lips and a naughty glint in her eye. "Ask her what happened after the ceremony."
"You know, I am standing right here," Marian said. "I can hear every word."
Varric's eyebrows rose to new heights. "Oh this I have to hear." He thumbed towards Lowtown. "Hanged Man and the drinks are on me."
"Varric, you're as eager as a sailor on leave," Isabela tutted. "Let's go play with Cullen first and then we'll talk."
"Torturing templars really isn't my thing," Varric said. He thought back to the possessed fight with Meredith and her men and decided to rephrase his statement. "Unless it's funny then I'm all for it."
"Hmm, I have something fun in mind," Isabela said. The devious smile unnerved Marian and Varric. Any woman who could explain forty-two erotic ways to use a feather was not to be trusted with a serious interrogation. "He will talk in no time."
"Maker preserve me," Marian muttered. "It's going to be a long night."