howtoactfereldan: (see me kneel)
Cullen ([personal profile] howtoactfereldan) wrote2015-10-10 07:59 pm

(no subject)

The literal fires are out. Most of them. The ones that shouldn't be there.

Vambraces first, then gloves. Pauldrons. Gorget. Cuirass. When the more cumbersome pieces of armor are gone, Cullen allows himself to slump for a moment, rubbing at his eyes.

When he'd arrived in the Gallows, Knight-Commander Meredith had issued him quarters that faced toward the Wounded Coast, with a taller, broader window than nearly everyone else had. One he could open, and keep open. It doesn't help with the nightmares themselves -- nothing will -- but at the least it is proof that he is not in a confined space.

At least, in the most obvious sense.

Word had finally arrived from Val Royeaux that afternoon, nearly two months after the explosion of the Kirkwall Chantry: the Templar Order believed that there were plenty of other problems to be addressed before the matter of appointing a new Knight-Commander, and until then, Knight-Captain Cullen should consider himself in charge for the foreseeable future.

Which meant that Cullen spent the entire afternoon trying very hard to dictate a letter to the Starkhaven Chantry, and another to Sebastian Vael, asking if they could spare a dozen templars for a few months to assist in keeping the peace, clearing rubble, and starting rebuilding efforts. It shouldn't have taken so long, and it wouldn't have, had Cullen not had to compose the letters while trying to strike an accord with Guard-Captain Aveline regarding future possibilities for joint --

Cullen blows out a sharp breath and sticks his head out the window. That's done. That's done. The day is over. It started before dawn, it has concluded after nightfall, the day is finished. The breeze is full of salt, damp, chill: bad for armor (which he needs to polish, he needs to, he shouldn't trust that job to anyone else), but good for bringing him back to himself long enough to strip down to gambeson and linens.

In his foot locker he keeps a small sheaf of letters. He fishes out the stack and sits at the small desk, back hunched, thumb running rough over the creased parchment as he stares at the candle burning down.

(Did he eat anything? Cullen can't remember. He should remember, but he --

There are more important things.)

He might have lost some time. Such things aren't unknown. His shoulders complain when he finally straightens and opens the topmost parchment. Another letter from Mia. One he should return. A duty he shouldn't mind -- and, truth be told, Cullen doesn't. He's just never sure how to tell his sister about his life, and whatever he winds up saying tends to be stiff and curt as a result.

Mia and his younger brother and sister are the only ones living who know -- knew? -- Cullen as anything other than stiff, curt. Tired. Paranoid. Sinful. Fallen. Failed.

"No," Cullen says aloud -- growls, more. People depend on him for their safety -- the templars now under his command by default, the handful of loyalist mages who need protecting from Kirkwall residents even more so than the demons who would love nothing more to turn them into abominations, and even those same Kirkwall residents. People depend on him. They're all depending on him. He can consider repentance and atonement when he and Aveline have come to an accord on joint trainings and patrol, and when families displaced by all the violence have safe places to rest their heads.

Until then, Cullen must rise before dawn, retire after dark, maintain discipline, protect everyone from themselves and each other, and remember to write his sister.

Parchment. Quill. Ink. Dear Mia --

That's the easy part.

I know I am a disappointment --

No.

I am sorry I am not better --

Worse.

You don't need to tell me to write more, I know I should --

Worst yet. Cullen sighs, writes in two or three terse sentences that he is well and rebuilding is proceeding. He asks her to send more tales of his nieces and nephews. Asks her to recount their brother Branson's latest chess strategies. Asks after this year's wheat crop. Asks for anything, so that he does not have to write. He supposes that it must be like writing to a stranger, for her, only she doesn't seem to be aware of it. He doesn't understand why she bothers, really. But it is his duty: she asks to know that he is alive. He can do that much.

He splashes water on his face, kneels on the stone floor as long as he can stand (long enough to get through the entire Canticle of Trials), strips to his smalls, falls on his narrow bed with a brief, fervent wish that perhaps he could get through this night without nightmares.

--

It is too much to ask. Of course. And now he is hungry.

Some hours later, Cullen stands stares out the open window again -- long enough for the sweat to dry, for his heart to slow a little -- before throwing on his linen, his gambeson. That will do long enough to get some day-old bread, some cheese, some cold water. Then more prayer, he supposes, before it's time to do it all again.

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