The End of Life as He Knew It
Magic exists to serve men, and never to rule over him.
Foul and corrupt are they,
Who have taken His gift,
And turned it against His children.
The chant of light read that magic was a tainted thing, and evil thing. Those with the gift of magic were to be treated as though they were a hazard. They were dangerous. They were abominations, even if they didn't realize it yet. Mages were to be repressed by templars, and those that managed to escape were to be murdered. These were the rules that Cullen grew up with.
"Don't get close to mages, Cullen," his father had always said, "they are not human. They may pretend like they are, but deep down they're all demons waiting to surface. They'll be the end of life as we know it, mark my words."
Each and every day he had been infused with the hate that existed against mages. And so he had become a templar. To at least sustain the threat that was the magi. His parents couldn't have been more proud as he embarked to become a templar. They wept with joy when they heard he was doing his righteous job in the tower that was located in the middle of Lake Calenhad.
Cullen couldn't help but wonder, though… He had grown up with the presumption that mages weren't human. But when he watched the young apprentices play in the tower, and the older mages fuss over them, he couldn't help but think they weren't so different than he was. They laughed and cried, they loved and learned. How was this not human? And then there was her…
She had come to the tower when she was only a young girl, before Cullen had even begun his training as a templar. Her hair was short and a fiery red, tied up in a bunch of little ponytails. She had the characteristic pointy ears of an elf, and the face tattoo told him she had once belonged to a Dalish tribe. Her name was Saber. It wasn't her real name. No one knew her real name.
From the moment she had set foot in the tower she caused nothing but mischief. From stealing food in the kitchen to stealing the first enchanter's most precious tome. She was the one to teach the younger apprentices Dalish curse words and told them scary stories so that they couldn't sleep at night. She had become an expert at outrunning the templars and hiding in the most hidden of places. Yet though she had no clue what 'good behavior' meant, she was loved by all other mages in the tower. Though the first enchanter often wondered what would come to be of her, he knew deep down that she'd always be alright. And Cullen watched her when she thought he wasn't looking.
They hardly spoke to each other, and Cullen was certain she wasn't even properly aware of his existence. As far as he knew he was just another templar to her. Another one of the heavy-plated men who had put her into this prison. She hated templars and everything that reminded her of them. He was invisible to her. Sometimes when he laid in bed, trying to sleep this thought would pop up in his head, and it would make life unbearable. He loved her, and she didn't even know his name. Worst of all; she wasn't even interested in knowing his name.
It wasn't completely her fault. Cullen was a coward when it came to talking with women. He felt he was awkward, and he was never quite sure what to say. He'd only manage to say bumbling phrases that made no sense and in the end he'd excuse himself with flared cheeks. Not to mention she was a mage, and templars weren't supposed to be on friendly terms with mages. So he contented himself with watching her, and never talking to her.
When the day of her harrowing came, he had to be the one to strike her down if a demon took over her body. At first he wanted to refuse, but he couldn't come up with a decent excuse that would get him out of it. After all he couldn't just tell them he had feelings for her, that would be a disaster. So the entire time as she was writhing on the floor he just kept praying to the Maker. Praying that she'd be strong enough to survive. The immense amount of relief he felt when it was over, and she had passed was indescribable. He couldn't recall of a time when he'd been happier.
Every morning the mages and templars would go to the chantry in the tower and listen to the chant of light. Cullen would stand in the back and listen intently to the chant, whilst watching over the mages. It was one of these mornings when Knight-Commander Greagoir stood next to Cullen, peering over the mages and sighing.
"Something the matter, Knight-Commander?" Cullen asked, looking at his superior.
"It's that damn elf, Saber," he said, Cullen's heart skipped a beat when he heard the name, "She's not here is she?"
Cullen looked at the mages and realized quickly that the Knight-Commander was right. Nowhere in the crowd did he see her fiery-red ponytails.
"I guess she isn't," Cullen said, still peering at the mages.
"Do you mind looking for her, Cullen?" Greagoir asked, "She's probably hiding somewhere in the library."
Cullen had just swallowed, nodded and then made his way towards the library. Butterflies were churning in his stomach and he just hoped he wouldn't find her. Saber would probably hate him for dragging her to the chantry. He was better off being invisible than being hated. He couldn't ignore the Knight-Commander's request though, and he decided to at least act like he didn't care what she thought of him.
The endless rows of books were leering at him as he walked through the corridors. They were stacked in high cabinets that almost reached the ceiling. It was quiet and he only heard his own armor clinking and clanking. You'd have to be deaf not to hear him coming. His footsteps sounded heavy on the marble floor. As he reached the other side of the library the soft pitter patter of feet was heard behind him.
So she was in the library, he thought as he turned around.
He was too slow and only greeted by the empty hallway. He turned down another corridor and was once again greeted by the endless amount of books. He could hear her feet pattering on the floor again, this time accompanied by soft laughter.
This was a game to her, he thought as an involuntary smile surfaced on his face.
He started running now, looking in every nook and cranny for the red-haired elf. He never found her, he only heard her. Her soft feet scrambling away from him, her laughter soaring in the air. Sometimes he'd catch a glimpse of her mage robes going around the corner, but when she'd disappear almost instantly when he got there.
He spent nearly fifteen minutes running from one end of the library to the other, but Saber kept on eluding him. He stopped for a minute to catch his breath, leaning on one of the shelves.
"What's the matter templar?" A voice above asked him, "Tired of chasing me?"
Cullen looked up and saw her sitting on top of one of the shelves, a catlike grin on her face. She was holding a book. She must have been reading it before Cullen started to chase her.
"C-come down from there a-at one," he tried his best to sound commanding, really.
Saber just burst out laughing, almost dropping the book in the process.
"Now templar, that doesn't sound too impressive," she said, regaining her composure, "I think I'll stay here."
"Knight-Commander Greagoir wants you in the ch-chantry," Cullen said, trying not to let his cheeks flame red.
"I don't care what the Knight-Commanders wants, I'm not going," she said, pouting. She almost looked like a child.
"But the Chant of Light is a vital part of each morning," Cullen reasoned.
"I don't think so. I think the Chant of Light is a load of bullocks," she said.
"They shall be named Maleficar, accursed ones. They shall find no rest in this world or beyond,"she quoted expertly, "The Chant of Light is anything but a brainwashing device, dear templar."
"C-cullen," he said.
"My name is Cullen," he said looking up at her.
"I don't care what your name is, templar," she replied defiantly, "It's not like you people take the time to learn my name. Every single day I get called 'demon' or 'abomination'. If I'm lucky it's just 'mage' or 'knife-ears'. I couldn't care less about your name because you don't care about mine."
"I know your name though," Cullen said, a bit more steady this time.
"Is that so?" She asked him, "If you give me the right name, I'll get down and go to the chantry."
"It's Saber," he said, his eyes not daring to look at her.
It was quiet for a moment, then there was a soft sound and she stood next to him, book still in hand.
"So it is," she just said, and as she left: "See you around Cullen."
They didn't trade a lot of words after that. He'd see her around the tower, but he'd still be too much of a coward to actually talk to her. She occasionally great him with a smile, sometimes even a 'Hello Cullen', if he was lucky. Days went by slowly in the giant tower, besides to occasionally outbreak of some mages not a lot happened.
But then one day a Grey warden suddenly stood on their doorstep, looking for recruits. As he walked around the tower it became abundantly clear that he had set his eyes on Saber. The three of them were conversing in the first enchanter's quarters. Cullen had been stationed outside. The door swung open and revealed the Grey Warden and Saber. They paid no heed to Cullen and walked down the hallway. Saber asked him a thousand and one questions, and the Warden replied to them all with the patience of a mentor. Cullen's heart felt heavy as he realized what was going to happen.
Later the same day he was patrolling the hallways. The mages were eating and no one was in sight. It was quiet and peaceful, just the way he liked it. He went round the corner and suddenly bumped right into someone. The someone fell on the floor with a slight thud.
"I'm terribly sorry," Cullen blurted out and he stuck out his hand. With a start he recognized the girl he had bumped into.
"Gee Cullen, that armor isn't only snazzy to look at but also painful to bump into," she laughed as she took hold of his hand. Cullen regretted wearing gauntlets as he pulled her to her feet.
"I-I'm terribly sorry," he said as Saber brushed the dust off her clothes.
"Stop acting so shy around me," She said, "it's almost like you have a crush on me."
Cullen's ears flamed red immediately and he begged the Maker she wouldn't notice. She did notice, of course.
"What's wrong, Cullen? Did I hit a sensitive spot there?" She grinned that catlike grin once more.
"N-no of c-course not. T-templars are not allowed to feel s-such things," he stuttered out nervously.
"Sometimes you can't help what you feel, Cullen," she said, standing on her tiptoes so she was on eyelevel with him, "That's the problem with you templars; you think too much. You fear too much."
Her lips were hovering right next to his. Cullen's eyes slid shut slowly as he felt her hot breath on his lips. It was so tempting not to press his lips against hers. But he couldn't. He was templar, she was a mage. This would have no future. He snapped out of it, blurted out some form of excuse and literally ran away from her. She just stood there looking at him, dumbfounded.
That evening he was sitting on his bed, cursing himself for being so idiotic. He had changed his armor for more comfortable attire. They had been so close to kissing. He could've lost everything if he had been caught kissing a mage. But still he couldn't help but wonder what it would've been like.
"Cullen I'm sorry to bother you, but it seems we've got an issue," the Knight-Commander said as he entered Cullen's chambers.
"What's the issue?" Cullen asked, getting up from his bed.
"Seems that red-headed elf tried to help another mage escape," the Knight-Commander said, "this time she's gone too far."
Cullen didn't know what to reply. His throat seemed suddenly swollen, and an uneasy feeling was forming in his stomach. He just followed behind Greagoir as they made their way to the bottom of the tower. And sure enough, she was standing there, together with another mage and a chantry sister. The first enchanter was already there, along with a few more templars, the Warden was there as well, though Cullen had no idea why.
"You've done it this time," the Knight-Commander said when he arrived on the scene, "trying to sneak a mage out of the tower. The punishment for this will be severe."
"Calm down Greagoir," the first enchanter said, "let's hear what they have to say for themselves first."
"They love each other! You were going to make Jowan Tranquil!" Saber said defiantly.
"Those are no excuses!" The Knight-Commander shouted, "You are dangers to all of Ferelden."
"We are just like you!" Saber said, "Sure we have the ability to start fires, but if you have flint and tinder you could do the exact same thing."
"We can't turn into demons," Greagoir countered.
"Just because there's the possibility doesn't mean it will happen," she said, "we are all the same on the inside? Don't you see that? You oppressing us just makes it worse."
"I won't listen to this nonsense," Greagoir just mumbled, he then turned his attention to the chantry sister, "and what are you doing here?"
"I made me come with him!" she lied, "he threatened with blood magic!"
"You lying bitch!" Saber shouted.
"Lily, why are you saying this?" Jowan said disbelieving.
"It's true Knight-Commander, I had nothing to do with this!" she shrieked.
"No, Lily," Jowan said, "I just wanted a better life for us, why are you saying these things?"
"He threatened to kill me. To use my blood in one of his ungodly rituals," she kept on lying.
"You just don't know when to stop your fat mouth, do you?" Saber spat out.
"No, I can't believe this. This isn't how it was supposed to go!" Jowan shouted out as he pulled a knife from out of his robes. He slit his wrists, and almost instantly the blood started rotating around him, creating a gory vortex, "We were supposed to live happily ever after!"
"Jowan don't do this!" Saber shouted, but it was too late. The blood knocked down everyone in sight, and Jowan disappeared instantly. He had done just what Lily had lied about, and used blood magic.
"You poor fool," Saber said as tears welled up in her green eyes.
"Take the chantry sister away, we'll interrogate her about what happened here," Greagoir ordered the templars. She was screaming and covered in blood as they dragged her back up the tower.
"Now about you, mage-elf," he said, looking at Saber, "we'll lock you away in your chambers until we find a fit punishment."
Cullen wished he could convince the Knight-Commander otherwise, but the evidence was against her. She had made a bad mistake, and there was no one who could help her.
"Don't you think that's a bit severe," the first enchanter said.
"She helped a blood mage escape, I think it's not severe enough," the Knight-Commander replied.
"He wasn't a blood mage before you all pressured him!" Saber said, "He saw no way out."
"No matter now," Greagoir said, "the damage is done."
"If I might intervene," the Warden said. He had been quiet during the entire ordeal, but now decided to speak up, "I would like to invoke the right of conscription."
"What does that mean?" Greagoir asked.
"It means that I'm enlisting Saber to become a part of the Grey Wardens. There's nothing you can do about it," the Warden explained, "Saber, go upstairs and get your stuff. Make sure to pack light, we've got a long way to go."
Saber just looked at the first enchanter, when she saw he gave his approval she bounded up the stairs.
"Go after her Cullen," the Knight-Commander commanded, "make sure she doesn't try to sneak out any more mages."
He could hear Greagoir shouting against the Warden as he ascended the stairs, following after Saber. He found her in the mages quarters, trying to gather the little possessions she had.
"What are you doing here?" She asked him, tears visible in her eyes.
"The Knight-Commander can go fornicate with a sheep," she countered before he could finish his sentence, "Though that would be incredibly unlucky for the sheep."
Cullen sat down on her bed and watched her pack. There was no one else in the dormitories.
"You know this is incredibly unfair," she started, "They have no right keeping us locked up in this tower. They have no right to corner us and terrorize us. No wonder Jowan resorted to blood magic; he didn't know what else to do."
She wiped away her tears and sat down next to Cullen on the bed.
"And that stupid Lily, she just made things worse. I hate her even more than I hate the Knight-Commanders," she said, "I'm honestly glad I'm leaving this prison."
"Me too," Cullen said.
Saber looked up at him with a questionable look.
"This tower isn't big enough to contain you," Cullen said, smiling, "You are too free spirited to be cooped up in here. I just know you'll go out into the world with the Grey Wardens and do a lot of great things."
She sniffled and put her hand on top of his. Cullen knew he'd have to be bold to say this, but this would be the last time he saw her. If he wasn't going to say it now, when would he?
"You're very sweet," she said.
"I'm not saying it to be sweet," he replied, "I'm saying it because it's true. All my life I've heard nothing else but how mages are evil and should be kept within the circle at all times. But when I see you, I find it difficult to believe such things."
She squeezed his hand and placed the other on the side of his face.
"You know Cullen," she said, as she brought her face once again closer to his, "For a templar, you're quite alright."
When their lips touched it was as if an electric shock had been sent through Cullen's entire body. At first their lips moved against each other slow and tender. But soon their hormones took over and the kiss became more heated and passionate. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her on his lap, the kiss growing more heated by the second. She ran her fingers through his blond, curly hair as their lips fought a battle for dominance. The battle was won by Cullen and he slipped his tongue inside her mouth. The kiss went on for a while, but they knew she'd be wanted down stairs any second now. It wasn't safe. He was still a templar and she was still a mage.
They pulled apart and looked at each other for a while, a sad look their eyes. They didn't say anything, words were unnecessary then. She got off of his lap slowly and grabbed her back. She looked at him one last time as she left the dormitories.
He watched her leave in the boat, leaving its wake in the water of the lake. She was waving back at the tower, a big smile on her face. Cullen just looked at her sadly whilst the mages all waved at her, and shouted her good-byes. It was dark out, and soon enough the boat disappeared in the shadows. She was gone. Somehow he knew that they'd meet again, though. He just hoped the circumstances would be different next time.
As he tried to get some sleep all the words that had once been told him were swimming through his head. Once he'd been certain that all mages were evil, but she had made him doubt of this. There was one thing his father had said that rang with truth though.
"Mages will be the end of life as we know it."
He had been right. The kiss he had shared with a mage changed everything. It had been the end of life as he knew it.