00. Fashionably Late
The war room was too quiet for anyone’s taste. Cullen continued staring at the map of Thedas spread across the large war room table, hoping it would somehow make the wait go by faster, but it was to no avail.
Where was she? Surely someone informed her that Cassandra was waiting for her in the war room. How could she have gotten lost? How could she not know? Cassandra told everyone.
It had been at least an hour since anyone had seen her. After hanging the Inquisition’s flag and informing the small amount of followers they currently had that the Inquisition had now officially begun, they hadn’t seen her at all. Surely she understood Cassandra meant to meet soon.
Cullen wasn’t the only one uncomfortable with the waiting. Leliana looked a bit miffed while Josephine tried to keep the wax from her melting candle off her papers. Cassandra kept a constant check on the door, as if looking at it would make her appear any sooner.
Cassandra and Leliana at least knew what to look for. While Cullen had stood near her, he hadn’t really seen. His mind was trying to process all the various things that were going on around them, trying to prepare himself to work alongside a mage without judgment. He knew it would be hard, but letting his emotions get the better of him would end in disaster.
Where on earth was she, though?
Cullen glanced over at Cassandra and just watched as the Seeker’s eyes tightened. He found Cassandra to be interesting, to say the least. While still a part of the Order, he had been taught to fear Seekers, but she certainly wasn’t frightening. At least not to him. Anyone who stood in the Inquisition’s way should probably be frightened, but Cullen wasn’t.
“Maybe we should send for her,” Josephine said, out of nowhere. The silence that had filled the air hadn’t really bothered Cullen. He was used to silence, but clearly Josephine was not. She seemed on edge the more silence went on. “I-I mean, something may have happened, after all.”
Cassandra shook her head. “If something had happened, we would’ve heard. I do not know what is keeping her. Perhaps I should—”
The doors of the war room slammed open, and in came the Herald herself. Cullen was immediately taken back by what he saw. How exactly had he not seen before? Black curls fell loose around her perfectly shaped face, accenting her porcelain skin in a way he found adorable. Her wide eyes were a mystery themselves, a ring of bright purple surrounding a bright blue Cullen had never seen in a person’s eyes.
Leliana and Josephine talked of her beauty, but words simply did not do her justice.
Cullen found himself unable to say anything as the small mage frantically closed the doors behind herself and tried to catch her breath.
She nervously tucked her curls behind her ears and sheepishly looked at each person in the room. “I am so sorry to keep you waiting.”
She had a very gentle voice, one Cullen found soothing. Even if she had a horrible reason for keeping them waiting, Cullen couldn’t find it in himself to be upset with her. She was just so charming, in an absolutely captivating way.
It didn’t register in his mind at all that she was a mage. Normally, he had to think past that in order to talk to mages, but it wasn’t like that with her. She was just like anyone else to him.
Well, she was like no one else to him, but certainly not a mage.
“What kept you?” Cassandra asked. “Is everything alright?”
Her pale cheeks were the color of a rose as she continued to breathe heavily, and Cullen couldn’t peel his eyes away. “Yes. Now. I am so sorry. A man was attacked by a druffalo and needed a healer, and I think I made things worse trying. So I found Solas, who helped until someone could get Adan, but he didn’t have the potions he needed. So I went out to find some elfroot, and on my way out, the quartermaster asked if I found some iron to bring it back for our soldiers. Honestly, the idea of having so many soldiers equipped with anything less than the best frightened me, so I gathered as much iron and elfroot as I could carry. Then I found a logging stand, and—”
“Wait just a moment,” Leliana interrupted, and as it had with Cullen, all irritation with the wait disappeared. “You were supplying our soldiers?”
Her beautiful eyes met Leliana’s, and she nervously nodded. “As best I could for the area. I’m sure I’ll be able to do better other places, but I did what I could.”
Cassandra raised one eyebrow. “And the man who needed healing?”
“He’s better,” she murmured. “Adan says he now has what he needs to help more, so he’s . . . not so cranky.”
Cullen didn’t realize he was smiling until his smile widened, and then, he was surprised. He hadn’t remembered a time where someone could make him smile so easily, but he felt good.
She was definitely a marvel, in more ways than Cassandra even realized.
“I can’t believe someone actually got the man to stop complaining,” Cullen managed to laugh, and everyone in the room looked as surprised as he felt.
Except the Herald . . . she knew nothing of him, did she? Her bright eyes landed on his in wonder, and a light Cullen had never seen in someone’s eyes seemed to be shining brightly in his direction. She looked curious, but more than that, she looked happy.
“Well,” she murmured. “Lessen his complaints anyways.”
Cullen was absolutely amazed, and he couldn’t understand why. Yes, this was probably the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, but it had nothing to do with her beauty.
Everything about her was light. She was everything the Inquisition needed her to be—a beacon of light with a heart that pulled her to help anyone and everyone any way she could. He didn’t need to speak with her more to figure this out. He could just tell.
And he knew she was exactly what they needed. Maybe even . . . no, he didn’t need anything more.
“We should get to business, now that you are here,” Cassandra said, and with a gesture of her hand, the Herald stepped closer to the table. “We must discuss how to seal the Breach.”