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 Nethra Lavellan

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Nethra Lavellan
The Inquisitor
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Posts : 40

PostSubject: Nethra Lavellan   26/9/2015, 02:39

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Nethra Lavellan
The Inquisitor
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Posts : 40

PostSubject: Re: Nethra Lavellan   26/9/2015, 02:44

Practice

The clash of practice blades rang through the near empty courtyard like chimes in the wind. The sound echoed off the high walls and rang back in Cullen's ears, doing little to distract him from his target. His feet held steady on the gravel beneath them, locking him into a position he could defend. With little effort he lifted the shield on his arm to block the on oncoming flurry of strikes, fast but not quite strong enough to knock him back, or even strain his shield arm.

“Put more force into it!” His shield remained raised, and he braced himself for another attack. “Again!”

The Inquisitor followed his command without hesitation. Her daggers, one held in each hand, were again flashing around him, making contact with his shield with the dull thud of wood on steel. He could tell Nethra was doing her best to do what he asked, but her strength was flagging near the end of their training session.

They would have to stop soon, he decided. The sun was now cresting the mountain peaks, and the rose of early morning was everywhere in the courtyard. Soon Skyhold's inhabitants would be waking and rising to their duties, and both he and the Inquisitor would have much to do before the sun again left the sky.

Cullen refocused himself on Nethra not a moment too soon. She was taking advantage of his inattention and rushing towards him, the heels of her feet never making contact with the ground. She did not go for his shield this time, nor even any spot on his torso. He realized too late she was dropping to the ground, using the momentum from her charge to tumble and roll across the dirt until she was passing under his shield and close to his legs. Her blade struck out as she pushed onto her feet, still crouching low. Cullen felt a slight tap on the back of his thigh – if her blades were not wooden he would now be stumbling to the ground with a cut tendon.

“Good work. Now defend!” With a surprisingly agile movement for his size, Cullen turned on his heel so he was facing Nethra. His sword came down fast and hard, the power of his well muscled arms behind it.

After her forward tumble to reach his vulnerable spots, Nethra had left herself much to close to him with little time to escape. She scrambled backward, doing her best to avoid the large wooden sword headed right for her. Her foot caught on a loose rock and she hesitated in her retreat in order to catch her balance – a fatal mistake. The sword crashed into her side and the force sent her falling hard to the ground.

A look of pain marred her features and Cullen felt the cool finger of dread latch around his heart. He had not meant to hit her so hard; had not meant to hit her at all. Not for the first time he regretted his acceptance of her request for training. She had asked so earnestly, though, and with such insistence that he be the one to train her. When pressed, she explained that he was the best soldier the Inquisition had, and that to be trained by the commander of her forces would be an honor. After that Cullen could not say no.

He had to fight the urge to treat her with more caution and delicacy than his other recruits, and often he failed. She looked so fragile with her slim frame and height that barely came up to his chest. He was afraid he would press her too hard, somehow injure her in the process of training. Nethra was nothing if not determined though, and she continuously surprised him with her endurance and drive.

Even now she was getting to her feet, rubbing her side with one hand while the other clutched her dagger. He could not miss the steel glint in her eyes as she watched his movements, and he knew that if she were facing him in the heat of battle that look might be the last he ever saw. He wanted to compliment her, to praise her for not letting the blow defeat her. The words were even on his lips, but before he could voice them she was pressing forward again, dashing around him like a whirlwind.

Cullen had to move quickly to avoid her viper like strikes. She moved with such renewed ferocity that the braid her hair was held in started to come undone, and strands of the deep brown caught the rising sunlight and gleamed. Between defending his position and occasionally lunging forward to counter her attacks, Cullen found his gaze drifting again and again to Nethra's focused expression and the sweat damp hair that was beginning to frame her face.

Seeing an opening, he decided to strike with full force once again. He lowered his shield in one arm and with the other swung his sword in a tight arc precisely where Nethra was standing, in hopes of catching her in the side once more. She was too quick for Cullen this time: her lithe body moved like water as she danced away from his practice blade. With a spin that whipped her hair about her, she ended up right behind him, while he still focused on the spot she had previously stood. The wooden dagger in her dominant hand was pressed against the soft of his throat, Nethra on her toes in order to reach.

The sudden pressure against his back made him stiffen and hold still. She could not hurt him with the practice blade – that was not the reason his breath had caught in his throat. During all of their practice sessions she had never been so close, never had so much of her body against his. He could feel the warmth of her breath on his neck, little puffs of heated air in the cold of the morning around them. Her hair, fallen now from the loose braid she had worn, brushed against his skin and it was so much softer than he imagined when he lay awake in the dark of night unable to sleep. This close, he could catch the faint scent of the wool and leather she wore, and the aroma of pine and cedar that somehow clung to her even when she was not among the trees.

All thoughts of defending from her attack, and certainly those of retaliating, vanished from his mind. Instead they were replaced with images of her pressing her lips to his throat in place of her dagger. Just the thought of it brought a slight blush creeping up his cheeks and he was immensely relieved that Nethra could not see his face.

“Ma halam,” she spoke, her voice a playful threat in his ear. The words were unfamiliar, and the thick of her accent when she spoke them made them more foreign yet. He had often caught her muttering under her breath in the strange sounding elven tongue, yet he never felt it his place to question the words meanings. More than likely they were expressions of frustration or idle mumbling while her mind worked. This was the first time he had heard her deliberately speak the language to anyone who was not elven.

With some regret, he felt the pressure of her body against him disappear, and the dagger pressed to his throat was lowered. He turned to see Nethra had backed away, and was now standing with her weapons casually hanging in her hands. She wore a triumphant expression, and with the morning sun putting diamonds in the eyes Cullen was tempted to let her win more often.

“I will assume that means something along the lines of 'I win,'” he said as he lowered his own weapon.  

“Something like that,” Nethra grinned, and he could not resist one in return. Taking his free hand he wiped the sweat from his brow, and ran a hand through his matted hair. He would need a quick wash before he was to meet with his captains. With any luck the chill of the cool glacier water found in Skyhold would refresh him enough to last the day. He wondered if the Inquisitor would be doing the same; she had been working harder than he had, and no doubt was covered in a fine layer of sweat as well. He could almost imagine her taking a damp cloth to her neck, washing away the fatigue of training.

By the Maker, why am I thinking of that now? He quickly averted his eyes from Nethra, finding instead some interesting patch of sky. He heard her walk a few paces away and place her practice blades on the stand holding an array of other weapons, all used by new recruits. After he was certain no tell of his day dreams were on his face, Cullen joined her in putting away his weapon.

“That was good, Inquisitor. Next time we can work on your defense.” He was still worried about her ability to take a blow effectively. She showed today she was fast enough to avoid many, but the ones that had caught her had left her wide open for a killing strike. It was difficult to contain his worry when he pictured her out in the field and taken down, unable to defend herself enough to make it back alive.

Nethra nodded once in understanding. Cullen wished all his soldiers were so sensible when it came to their strengths and weakness; it would make for less frustration and trouble, that was certain.

“Cullen,” her voice cut through his thoughts and he was surprised there were things he could think about besides her when she was standing near him, tilting her head up  slightly in order to meet his eyes. “How many times do I have to tell you to call me by my name?”

He was unprepared for the sudden shift in topic, though he supposed it did follow – he had been referring to her only by her tittle all morning. It was only proper. She was his commanding officer: in the Inquisition she was above him in rank. If any of his soldiers or the assortment of nobles that passed through Skyhold heard him address her as anything less it would raise suspicions and possibly demean her in her followers eyes. The Inquisition could not afford that. Cullen did not think it necessary to mention that even thinking of her as Nethra brought too many confusing emotions to the surface for him to voice. But, if she was going to insist...

“At least once more, Inquisitor.” Another rare smile showed itself on Cullen's lips as his tone took on a light hearted note. Josephine had mentioned not too long ago that he was smiling more often, and more frequently still while in the company of the Inquisitor. Perhaps it was true.  

Nethra just shook her head and laughed at his remark. She was rubbing her side again, and Cullen was certain he saw a wince of pain cross her face as she applied pressure. That did not stop her from calling him out on his training method, though. “And next time, don't go easy on me. I know you were holding back.”

So she had noticed. Cullen had the vague impression he was not fooling her while they were training, and now he knew for certain. How could she expect him to not hold back? He was a seasoned Templar with more much fighting experience than she had, not to mention the overwhelming physical advantages he had. She was quick and agile, yes, and could run circles around him, but if they were truly in battle she would barely stand a chance. Nethra was new to fighting with the intention to hurt, and the only way to train her was to take it one step at a time.

It was not only the logistics that held him back, either. There was much more to it. Dear Andraste, how did they get onto this topic? “I...I didn't want to hurt you, or tire you out too fast.”

Nethra ran a hand through her tangled hair in irritation. “When I am out in the field Corypheus isn't going to be too concerned about not hurting me. I need you to go hard on me, and take this seriously.”

“I am taking this seriously, I swear it. But you should not have to worry about this! I should- the Inquisition should be able to keep you safe!” There was fire in Cullen's voice, a deep burn that showed his emotions clearly. The stumble of words – his near admittance to wanting to protect her – was nearly forgotten in his fury that she should be put in this position at all. Maker preserve him, he would shout off the battlements what he felt for her if it would keep her safe, repercussions be damned.

“Cullen...” The feeling of her hand resting on his arm snapped him away from the chaos of his thoughts. She was now standing right by his side, her hair tumbling down her back as she looked up at him. Her eyes were large and filled with a compassion he had seen only from afar, as she spoke with refugees and those who suffered. Directed at him it was a different sensation all together. He could feel himself relaxing, getting lost in the flecked green and brown of her eyes that held him like a trance.

When she spoke her words were stern, though not unkind. “The Inquisition, you, your soldiers; they have to worry about keeping the people safe. I will worry about keeping myself safe. But you can help by practicing with me. Please.” By the end of her request her expression had softened even further, and she had slipped closer still. Cullen was acutely aware of her, and the hand that still rested on him. Was it only wishful thinking to view the act as one of intimacy?

“Then I will do my best...Nethra.” Her name felt right on his lips, like it was meant for him to speak softly into her ear or mutter into her skin as he held her close.

With a movement that Cullen would never have expected or dare hope for, Nethra pressed onto her toes and placed her lips to his cheek, leaving a slightly damp impression of her kiss for the cool air to rush over. “Ma serannas. Thank you.”

Too soon she removed her hand from his arm and took a few steps back. She herself looked half surprised at what she had done, but no regret showed in her expression.

Cullen was struggling with his words, a deep blush raising over where her lips had just been. He again looked to the sky for an answer, but could discern nothing but the sun and how it seemed to shine only on Nethra. “Ah...I, uh, it-it's nothing.”

Nethra presented him with another grin and she was enjoying this, wasn't she? “I'll see you at the War Table this afternoon. Goodbye, Cullen.”

He watched as she turned and walked away, moving with graceful and easy strides despite how tired he knew she must be. The rest of the morning he could not get her face out of his thoughts, nor the way it had felt when she had been so near to him. Cullen knew then that there would be no denying his feelings, at least to himself.
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