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 Let's Get Down to Business

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PostSubject: Let's Get Down to Business   8/1/2015, 05:10

Cullen hesitated at the top of a long flight of stairs, first raised and held an inch from the heavy oak door. He had never been to the Inquisitors chambers before, and was uncertain how to proceed. For reasons only vaguely recognized he was nervous, a slight tremor working its way through his arm until his raised hand trembled.

He did not know why he was here, other than the Inquisitor requested his presence. One of her messengers had entered his office earlier in the day, telling him she wished to see him in her quarters after their mid-day meal. Since that moment Cullen's mind had been running through any and all situations that their meeting could entail.

Had she found out about the lyrium? Cullen wasn't sure he was ready to share that part of himself with anyone yet, and he feared for her reaction to his addiction and subsequent attempt to rid of his body of it. The idea had him shaking, and so he pushed it from his mind, hoping that was not the reason for her request.

Maybe she wished to discuss their efforts to thwart Corypheus. It was the logical conclusion and the one Cullen's mind had first jumped to. Why, then, wouldn't they be discussing it in the War Room?  

Or perhaps...no, no that couldn't be it. Cullen's cheeks began to flush with red as the Inquisitor's face flashed before his eyes unbidden, smile bright and eyes full of affection. He mustn't think of that, especially not when speaking with her. It was a sure way to make his words fumble in his mouth and for him to appear unqualified to be in her service. Whatever feelings she evoked in him must be pushed aside while in her presence, as it was useless to indulge in them.

He stood on the threshold of her quarters a moment longer, waiting for the blush on his cheeks to disappear. With one final deep breath to steel himself for whatever waited on the opposite side of the door, he rapped his knuckles on the wood twice.

“Come on in,” her voice, musical and forever reminding him of the rustling of leaves, drifted through the thick door. He pushed it open and stepped through the frame, shutting it gently behind him.

The first thing he noticed was the view: every wall of the large room opened to a balcony that wrapped around the tower. The glass doors were closed at present, but that did nothing to hide the spectacular scene beyond them. His eyes then caught sight of the Inquisitor and immediately he knew this was one place in Skyhold she belonged. The nature surrounding the room on all sides suited her perfectly.

“Thanks for coming here, Cullen. Sometimes I can't stand the War Room; too stuffy.” She moved from her seat behind a large desk, though one not quite so big as the one in his office. It was then that he noticed what she was wearing, and had to use all his willpower to keep his gaze steady on her face.

She was not in the leather he was so accustomed to seeing her in, the armor that seemed a part of her own body, nor was she wearing the silk under armor she often moved about Skyhold in. A short tunic draped loosely about her frame, clinging in all the right places but allowing for unimpaired movement. He noticed fine golden embroidery on the hem that landed mid way up her thigh. Doeskin leggings clung to her legs like a second skin and Cullen couldn't resist wondering what the fabric felt like when brushed against his palm.

“Would you like some wine?” Her voice jilted him from his fantasies and he had to quickly recover.

“Ah, no thanks.” Did he sound flustered? Dear maker, he hoped he didn't.

After putting down the unopened wine bottle, Nethra walked to the couch Cullen was now seated on and took a seat beside him. She wouldn't be sitting next to him if this meeting was about something serious, right? Her movements wouldn't be so languid and unconcerned; she wouldn't be acting in such a casual, comfortable manner, one that he rarely saw from her.

“I have a favor to ask; I hope that's ok.”

Cullen breathed a sigh of relief. He was safe. “Of course, Inquisitor.” Anything.

“Well, you know my sister is here. I mean, it's hard to miss her.” Keerla, the Inquisitor's sister, had been at Skyhold for a few days now. Cullen had seen her around the grounds and castle often, most of the time in the company of Nethra. While he had only spoken to her once or twice, she seemed like a lively girl, and was already getting on good terms with many of the hunters.

“She wants to join the Inquisition.” Here the Inquisitor looked away from Cullen and off into the distance. The look in her eyes was far away and he wished he could ask what she was thinking. “I...think it's best for her to return home, but when she makes her mind up about something it's like trying to get a stone to roll across a flat surface.” Cullen understood more than he let on. His own siblings, his sister especially, are the same way.

“You helped me train, and after I hassled you enough you actually gave me all you've got.” The Inquisitor laughed, the twinkle of it hitting the windows and walls and echoing back into Cullen's ears like music. He recalled the times the two of them spent hours together in the courtyard, him pushing her to fight harder, to concentrate on her defense as he lunged toward her. She had skill to begin with; her movements had been swifter and more graceful than his from the start. But she had lacked conviction and confidence with her weapon strikes. It had taken him some time to convince her that the daggers she wielded were for more than killing game. He also recalled the stolen glances at her moving body – the way she danced from one spot of the courtyard to the other, or how she spun around him like a whirlwind. The sun would catch in her eyes, shimmering green and brown as she held a practice dagger to his throat. He thought of the times he pinned her close to his body, practicing escapes from dangerous holds, and the way the smell of her hair would fill his senses. Focus, he tried to remind himself. Now was not the time to be thinking of the Inquisitor like that – not when she was sitting right next to him and discussing other matters.

“You're a good trainer; you know how to be tough when you need to. I like that,” Nethra's praise hit Cullen right in the chest and he couldn’t stop the satisfied grin from spreading on his lips. He was still unsure of where the conversation was leading, but it was now obvious it was nothing severe.

“I'd really appreciate it if you could train Keerla, too.” He must have given Nethra an odd look, as she hurried on with her request, making clear just what she wanted. “Not really, though! Not like you helped me. I want you to change her mind about joining the Inquisition. She's still a kid, really. She doesn't know how hard this is, or how much she will have to sacrifice. Make it clear to her, show her how difficult it is.” Nethra sighed, ran her hand through her already tousled hair in vexation. “I don't want you to think I'm horrible for doing this, but I just need her to give up this ridiculous idea.”

The sincerity in her voice was unmistakable. Cullen could no more say no to her than think ill of her in any way. “Of course, Inquisitor. But, excuse my bluntness, why don't you want your sister here? You two appear to be very close.”

“We are. That's why I don't want her here. It's dangerous; there are a million ways she could get hurt. I really couldn't take that. I've got enough people I worry about as it is.” Her hand slipped from its spot on the side of the couch to rest on Cullen's arm. He could feel the heat of her flesh pulse from her palm into his forearm and suddenly it was much too hot in the open room.

“I...that's, uh, very selfless of you. I wasn't aware it affected you so or...” His words trailed off as his brain was unable to string the correct words together.

“Of course it does. You think I don't worry about you, Cullen?” Hazel eyes bored into brown and Cullen was certain he was going to do something he would regret, until he was saved by a playful grin from Nethra to ease the tension. “I can't have my commander getting hurt, now can I? I'd have to take time out of my busy schedule to nurse him back to health.”

“I don't- that wouldn't...by the maker you like to seem me squirm, don't you?”

Nethra's only answer was to smile at him as she stood and walked back to her desk. He wondered if he would ever understand what was going on behind those upturned eyes when she looked at him in such a way.

“I've got some letters to write, but you're welcome to stay here if you want. It's peaceful in here, don't you think? The view's nice.” She was gazing absently out the window and Cullen took the opportunity to watch the sun light play on her face. He was tempted to stay; her quarters were much nicer than his, and he could relax while stealing glances at her while she worked. But no, he didn't dare give himself that pleasure.

“Thank you for the offer, but I have work to do as well. I'll get things sorted for your sister. Have a good evening, Inquisitor.” He moved to the door, careful not to disturb any of the papers scattered about on his way.

“Oh, ok.” Was that a hint of disappointment in her voice? “Goodbye, then.”

* * *

The next afternoon Cullen was waiting in one of the large courtyards for Keerla.  His sword was strapped to his hip, hanging down to nearly scrape the ground when he walked about. The day was unseasonably warm and he shifted in his heavy fur lined cloak, slightly uncomfortable. His mind roamed from thinking he should have worn a lighter cloak to trying to decide what exactly to do with Keerla when she arrived. He had no practice with a bow - Sera, maker help them, would have been a better match for this task. He supposed he could make the young elf run laps on the battlements, as he had made Nethra do until he realized she could run circles around him without tiring. How similar would the sisters be, in combat and physique? He was interested to see, though he must be sure to keep in mind the goal of his 'training.'

He was still thinking of tedious, tiring tasks as the minutes rolled by. His expression was taut and severe; he had a reputation of looking more fierce than he actually was.
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PostSubject: Re: Let's Get Down to Business   10/9/2015, 19:09

It was only her first training session and Keerla was already late! Had it not been for the nice cozy bed in her own small bedroom chamber, she would have been up hours ago! It certainly wasn't because she spent most of the night exploring the castle or anything. Keerla wasn't really sure what combat training involved, so she brought with her everything she might need: the leather gear she wore on her journey here; her quiver, which was tightly secured to her back; and of course her hunting bow, which hung loosley from her shoulder. As she was ran down one of the halls of the castle (a shortcut to the courtyard, which she had discovered late last night), she passed the kitchen and caught a whiff of the sweet pastries and bakery. Her stomach grumbled in complaint. She silently scolded herself as she rounded a corner, knowing that she had no time to think of food right now. The thought of making the commander wait only quickened her pace.

When she finally reached the courtyard, she stopped in front of Cullen, gasping for air as she put her hands on her knees, "Sorry.. I'm late!" She gasped between words, then took a moment to recover before standing up straight and looking at Cullen apologetically, "Were you waiting long?"
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PostSubject: Re: Let's Get Down to Business   13/9/2015, 05:56

Cullen was starting to believe that his newest recruit had given up before her first training session by the time Keerla finally showed up. The young elf barreled towards him from some hidden corner of the courtyard and stopped at his side with a sudden skidding halt. She was out of breath, hands on her knees as she spoke in rushed exhales.

He managed to hold back a smile as he let her finish; perhaps his task was going to be easier than he imagined. Already he spotted a difference between the girl and her sister – the Inquisitor had always shown up to her sessions before him, and when he arrived at the scheduled time was ready and waiting. “It's about time you showed up,” he growled, doing his best to be the stern commander he was known as. “You won't be late again – if this was a battle your fellow soldiers could be dead by now.”

Cullen studied Keerla's face for her reaction to his words, searching for any sign of remorse or resolve. It was the first time he had truly seen her, other than the quick introduction when she arrived in Skyhold and the few sightings out of the corner of his eye as she roamed the stronghold. He was surprised at how similar she looked to her sister: the same slender form, the same delicate bone structure, and even the same sun darkened skin, though Keerla lacked the wash of freckles that Nethra had. From a far he didn't think he would be able to tell them apart, and already his mind was running through the possible problems that may cause here in Skyhold.

When he noticed he had been looking at her for perhaps a moment too long, he hurriedly cleared his throat and looked about the courtyard as an excuse to focus his thoughts. “Nethra–,” he stumbled, catching himself using the Inquisitor's name in an improper setting. It would not do well to let anyone, especially her sister, form any notions that he did not respect her enough to use her title. “The Inquisitor has ordered me not to go easy on you, so don't expect any special treatment for being her sister. You are a new recruit and will be treated as such.”

The lie did not sit well with Cullen, as he knew she would be facing more trials than any other new recruit. Just the fact that she was training with him one on one was indication of that. Part of him felt uneasy about attempting to run the poor girl into the ground with grueling training, but the other part remembered the look on Nethra's face when he agreed to her scheming.

“We will start with the basic warm ups. You can put your weapon away for now, we won't be getting to that until later.” With any hope they would never get to that. Cullen had no proper experience with bows, and would need to call in someone else to assist and maker forbid he fail in his word to Nethra because he was forced to seek Sera's aid.

Cullen marched over to the training dummy he had indicated Keerla to place her bow with, and pulled off of it a leather vest. It sat heavily in his hands, as it was lined with iron rods that added a good deal of extra weight to it. The vests were intended to simulate the added encumbrance most soldiers would face in battle due to their heavy armor and packs. Keerla, however, had all the markings of a hunter and would likely be traveling light, rendering the use of the vest in her training unnecessary. Cullen handed it over to her regardless, knowing it would make her first task much more difficult.

“Put this on over your armor, you'll need it for this part of your training. It should fit you fine, you look to be about the same size as your sister. Not that I look- or that I know – ah, just, just put it on.” Cullen stammered, again tripping over his words as he spoke without first thinking. Dear Maker, this is the perfect start to training Nethra's sister, he thought. Let's see how many times I can make a fool of myself.

Once Keerla had managed to get the vest on Cullen walked with her towards the center of the courtyard. He pointed towards the long stairway that was built into the fortresses walls and ascended up to dizzying heights. “Do you see that stair way leading to the ramparts? You will run up those stairs, along the top, then back down those stairs there,” he pointed to another set of large stone steps on the far side of the courtyard. “Do this three times, then return to me. And don't try to do less than ordered – I will be watching.”
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PostSubject: Re: Let's Get Down to Business   14/3/2016, 08:31

The thought of her comrades dying seemed to be quite sobering, cause after she apologized again she seemed to straighten up and act a bit more serious. She was doing this in order to fight by her sister's side, and already she was messing it up royally. "It won't happen again- uh, sir!"

Any fumblings Cullen had during his instructions went unnoticed by Keerla, and when he handed her the leather vest it sunk in her hands, not having expected so much weight to it. As instructed, she put her bow and quiver down, leaning the bow against the training dummy and slipping on the vest. It took a few minutes to get it properly fastened, and she wasn't sure how well she could shoot while wearing something like this, but she didn't feel like she should argue with Cullen, as he already got a bad first impression of her. And there was certainly no need to make it worse.

He then instructed her to run laps along the ramparts, and this time she couldn't help but frown. She thought she was in decent shape, though she had grown a bit thin from all those less than satisfactory hunts during her journey. As good of a hunter she was, it was still a bit difficult to secure food while on the move through unknown landscapes.

She gave Cullen a curt nod and a smile, "I'll be done before you know it!" And she was off, albeit a lot slower than she could actually run, no thanks to the heavy vest hanging off her. The leather also chafed against her shoulder wound, but she tried to ignore it as best she could. If she wanted to be taken seriously she couldn't fret over one measly wound that was already on the mend.

When she reached the stairs she released a heavy huff of air before slowly clambering up. It wasn't quick, but she eventually made it up and continued along the ramparts. Her face was red from both the exertion and the embarrassment as she passed several soldiers on her route, and a few even stopped to watch in amusement. She continued on like this for the remaining two laps, occasionally glancing down at the clearing to see if Cullen was indeed watching.

When she finally returned to the Commander she was heaving and huffing for breath as she placed her hands on her knees, "Okay," She paused for another breath, "What next?"
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