Cullen sighed as he heard a knock on what he considered the main door of his office – the one that faced Skyhold proper – and called out a, “Enter!” that probably sounded more than a little irritated. He thought by now, a good four months since they’d taken occupation of the keep, his soldiers and scouts had gotten the fact that he didn’t want to make himself hoarse yelling at all hours of the day.
Then he looked up as the door opened and realized why the person on the other side had knocked.
“Varric,” he greeted, not certain he should be pleased to see the dwarf. Then he noticed the strained, nervous expression on his least favorite author’s face. “Is something wrong?”
“Ah, well…” The dwarf rocked on his feet for a moment before sighing heavily and saying, “I need your help, Curly.”
Cullen’s eyebrows went instantly up and he tapped the remnant ink off the end of his quill into his ink pot, capped it, then set the quill carefully aside. He then leaned back in his chair, one arm crossed over his chest as he gestured for the dwarf to go on with his other hand before folding it over the first. If Varric needed his help, then he was going to pay attention.
“ My help?” he repeated dubiously.
“Well, I may have gotten myself into a bit of a…problem.”
Chuckling, Cullen jibed, “A problem that the great Varric Tethras can’t solve on his own? Oh this I have to hear.”
Varric groaned and lifted a broad hand to pinch the crooked bridge of his nose. “Maker’s balls, Curly,” he grumbled, “you’re sassing me.”
“I have my moments,” he replied with a smile. Then Cullen became fully serious and said, “I am listening, Varric. Do ignore my somewhat gleeful enjoyment of your plight.”
“Swears is good for you if this is what she brings out in you.”
He didn’t make the comment he wanted to in response about it not having really anything to do with Meryell and merely Varric getting a glimpse at the person he’d been (at least amongst other templars) before Kinloch fell. Instead he just stared and waited for the dwarf to actually get on with what he’d come to get help with.
Varric grunted and closed the office door behind him, leaning against it as he said, “I need you to distract the Seeker in two hours, around sunset.”
“Why don’t you have Meryell do it?” asked Cullen. Normally she was his partner in whatever small shenanigans he came up with as they’d become fast friends from the moment she’d been dragged off with Cassandra to first deal with the Breach.
“Because she’ll be with me on the battlements.”
Cullen frowned and leaned forward, resting his armored elbows on the desk. “Varric,” he growled warningly, not liking where this was going.
“It’s nothing dangerous, Curly!”
“ What is it? ” he growled.
Varric met his eyes for a moment before his gaze darted quickly away. Then all the air seemed to deflate out of the dwarf as he said quietly, “It’s Hawke.”
Now Cullen’s eyebrows went up and he just stared for a long moment. Then he worked his jaw for a second before saying, “Hawke…is coming…here. Around sunset. Today. ”
“ Is here,” corrected Varric with a grimace.
“Maker’s breath, do you have a death wish?”
“No,” he replied, sounding slightly annoyed. “Which is why I need you to distract Seeker.”
For a moment Cullen just sat there then he sighed, lifting a gloved hand to press a finger each against the inner corners of his eyes. He’d been having an actual good day and now he got the feeling that the stress of just knowing Treva Hawke was in the same vicinity as Cassandra was going to set off a withdrawal fueled headache. Then he sighed heavily and asked, “Anders?”
He heard Varric jerk against the door and opened his eyes, frowning at the stunned look on the dwarf’s face. “What?”
“You don’t know?” breathed Varric, his voice almost so low that Cullen didn’t hear it across the room.
“Obviously not since I’m asking,” replied Cullen in a clipped tone. “I know Anders was living with her, it’s the only thing that kept me from giving the order to bring him in. That and he was still doing some good in Darktown with his clinic.” Before he destroyed the Chantry and kicked off this damned war that’s been Ages in coming, he added to himself.
The dwarf just stood open mouthed for a moment before he ran both hands back over his hair, jostling some loose from the tie he kept a section in. “Shit, Curly,” he grumbled under his breath, “I thought you knew.” Varric then let out a long breath before throwing his hands up in the air as he said, “Hawke killed Blondie, Curly. Stabbed him right in front of us.”
Cullen didn’t realize he was on his feet until he registered that he was looking down at the dwarf instead of across. He planted his palms flat on his desk and was abruptly, painfully hurt in sympathy for Hawke. Anders had been a crazed revolutionary (he’d gathered up a copy of the now infamous manifesto when raiding the Amell/Hawke Estate and read it himself) but he’d also once been a decent man. A mage he’d known in the Tower who’d been known to attempt to talk anyone into bed (including the templars), an escape artist, and a lover of cats . Annoying but largely harmless. Who had been dead for four years .
A mage – man , not mage, he reminded himself, his own personal attempt to see them as people and not only their ability – who Hawke had loved.
By the Maker, if he didn’t know now what it felt like to lo… care deeply for someone. The thought of having to kill Meryell…he wasn’t certain he could even stomach the idea.
“No,” he said, feeling more than a little breathless. “I didn’t know that. I assumed…Maker, I assumed he left Kirkwall with her. Especially when I learned about the boy.”
Varric just shook his head and said, “You couldn’t have known, Curly. As far as the mages, templars, and the Chantry are aware, Blondie is still somewhere out there. We didn’t want them making him a martyr, so Hawke and Daisy made sure there wasn’t anything to find.”
Cullen nodded slowly and noted, “A wise course of action.” He let out a long breath before saying, “Very well. Though, dare I ask, why ask Hawke here?”
“We faced Corypheus before, Curly. Remember when we disappeared for a month or so before things went to absolute shit.”
Snorting, Cullen asked wryly, “Which time?”
“Right after Leandra died,” the dwarf replied mournfully.
Oh, did he remember when that had happened. Cullen had practically had to hold Carver Hawke down to keep the hot-headed young man from running out of the Gallows to hunt down whoever had taken his mother. Instead he’d sworn he’d see to it himself, put one of the older templars he trusted to watch the young man, and then he’d gone looking for Hawke. He’d offered her his aid for Carver’s sake as well as his tracking experience (reminding her that he was an accomplished mage hunter with a deliberately quirked eyebrow) and had been there for every step of the way onward.
He’d seen that horror her mother had been made into, his stomach roiling at the foul magics at work, at the thought of his own mother (so many years dead then) being a victim of such magic. Had stilled his own final strike that would have taken that bastard’s head because Hawke needed it. And then, he had stood to the side with hands clasped over the hilt of his sword, saying a breathless prayer for Leandra Hawke (who had probably hated him for taking her son but also likely praised him just a little for not taking her obviously mage daughter away as well) while he listened to Hawke wail over her mother’s body.
He hadn’t been witness to the conversation between the Hawke siblings after that as he’d simply told Carver that they had tried and he was sorry. However, he had walked the younger man back and forth to the Estate from the Gallows, and had seen the red eyes as well as heard the muffled shouts of dismay and sorrow. After that, as well, the somewhat bitter relationship between the two siblings softened.
Being the last members of your line had that effect sometimes.
“No, I remember,” replied Cullen, not wanting to bring up bad memories for the dwarf. As much as he’d been affected by the woman’s horrific death, Varric had known her for far longer. “I assumed that Hawke’s disappearance was simply taking time to deal with family matters. That was what Carver told me when he asked for a brief reprieve from duty after it happened.”
“That’s technically true,” Varric said.
“ Technically? Dealing with a darkspawn Magister is not technically , Varric.”
“We’ll tell you all about it, Curly, if you can keep your head on for a few hours. I’ll fill you in on all of the gory details myself. The real ones , I promise.”
“Maker’s breath.” If Varric was promising him a truthful story without any over exaggeration, something serious was going on. Sighing, Cullen growled, “Fine. I’ll be a distraction. Briefly . After that, you get to tell Cassandra about bringing Hawke in. Especially since I assume she’s going to be here for a while.”
Varric looked at little pale at his words but managed to just shrug and reply, “Fair enough, Curly. She’s hoping for some space for a bit…and maybe a babysitter or two?”
Lifting his eyebrows, Cullen asked, “She brought the boy?” He had learned about Hawke’s son via other sources and, while he was wary of what the boy might eventually be with two powerhouses of mages as his parents, he trusted her to train him. Treva Hawke had never showed one sign of falling, even when he had expected it, and that had been what kept him from arresting her or saying anything about her being an apostate.
She was one of the best examples that the Chantry teachings on magic were sometimes wrong.
“Well she wasn’t about to leave him behind.” Varric then pushed himself away from the door, saying, “I should get moving. Still have a few more things to get into place.”
Cullen just nodded then, as the dwarf was opening the door, he called out, “Varric?” As the other man stopped, he asked, “Does he know that she’s here?”
“That’s one of those things I need to put into place, Curly,” replied Varric with a pained looking smile. “Wish me luck.”
Snorting as the dwarf disappeared, he slowly sank back down into his seat. Shaking his head, he picked his quill back up then reached out to flip the hourglass on his desk, carefully watching it out of the corner of his eye to keep track of time as he went back to work.
“You’re dealing with Hawke ,” he muttered to himself. “You’re going to need more than the Maker’s own luck for that. We’ll see how much you get.”