She scanned the faces gathered in the Great Hall. Their voices were much more hushed than they had been at other judgments. One more judgment among many, the Inquisitor had finally become accustomed to doing this. Here was another prisoner standing before her waiting for her words to punish them. No spectators were chattering loudly away for this one. This judgment was far different from the rest. This time the prisoner was her lover.
Blackwall stood at the bottom of the steps below her throne with his shoulders hunched over. The shackles around his wrists echoed harshly in the quiet hall as he fidgeted. Lady Kiara Trevelyan stared at him while Josephine tried to do as she usually did, recounting the accused's crimes, but she didn't bother for this case. Josephine had called in several favors at Kiara's request to get him away from the noose in Orlais. Blackwall made sure to state how these favors would tarnish Josephine's and the Inquisitions' reputation. Kiara couldn't just let him hang. She loved him still. He had wounded her in a way that was more profound than any blade could, but Kiara would have done far more than tarnish reputations to keep him from basically killing himself. She was going to make sure he lived his life.
"You have your freedom." The sentence rang out in the great hall. Kiara hoped that no one could detect the mourning in her voice. She knew that whatever they once shared was now dead.
"It can't be as simple as that," Blackwall appeared puzzled as he looked up from the floor.
"It isn't," Kiara explained, "You're free to atone as the man you are, not the traitor you thought you were or the Warden you pretended to be." The thought of who he was hung heavy in her heart as the words escaped her lips. Kiara didn't know who he was, and she never did.
Blackwall, or rather Thom Ranier, paused on her words for a moment. "It will take time. You would accept that? And who I used to be?" He spoke as he began climbing the steps towards her throne. "I lied about who I was, but I never lied about how I felt."
His steps were slow, but he was getting closer.
She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She had an idea of what might be coming next.
"No matter what I was or what becomes of me, right now, I am just a man with his heart laid bare. I leave it in your hands." He was now eye level with her and gazing at her face, pleading for her love.
The pain stabbed deep into her soul like a dull knife. The stab created a precarious wound. Once the blade is removed, it could kill its intended victim if no pressure or treatment is applied fast enough. He was that knife, and she was about to pull out the blade. Kiara adjusted her posture; she was the Inquisitor, and people were watching. She would face this with all the poise she could muster.
"I will always love you, but I can never trust you again. I'm sorry." She opened the emotional wound wide, allowing the blood to spill.
"That..." he spat the word out in anguish, followed by a short pause to stand up straight. "That is fair." He continued with the strength now returned to his deep voice. "Goodbye then, my lady. You were... no, there is nothing more to be said. I will return to my post and await my orders."
Thom Ranier, her Blackwall, bowed before turning his back on her. She watched as he walked away, the noise of his chains joining the chatter returning to the great hall. She watched him just long enough to see the shackles removed.
Kiara closed her eyes, sighed, and pushed herself out of her seat. With the last of her grace, she walked over to Josephine. "Lady Montilet?" she was almost whispering. Josephine snapped her head away from the sight of Ranier’s back. "Yes, Inquisitor?" Josephine asked with concern. "I'm going to my chambers. Please don't let me be disturbed and try not to worry." The Inquisitor asked while forcing a small smile for Josephine to see. Josephine nodded yes to her.
"Thank you so much," she said as she stepped through the door leading to her chambers.
Cullen sat at his desk, rubbing his temples. All of the reports were finally done and stacked neatly, ready to go for the messenger. It was late, though; they would get sent tomorrow. "It's been a long day," he said out loud as he stretched his arms out above his head.
Blackwall's real name now was Thom Ranier, and his judgment had taken a toll on everyone today. He never approved of the relationship between Ranier and the Inquisitor. As the leader of the Inquisition and as the woman that she is, she could do so much better than a Warden whose sole purpose was to die fighting darkspawn. To make matters worse, he wasn't even a Warden. Cullen was dreading what would come next once everyone hears that she gave Ranier his freedom.
"And because she was so lenient on him, he had the nerve to ask that she continue their relationship?" he thought with his teeth clenched tight. His face slackened as he tried imagining lying to her like that. He would have never hurt her. "What?!" he asked out loud, shaking his head as if he were shaking out that affection. He got up from his desk and walked out his door towards the tavern. He needed a drink, and then to rest is all. Cullen's thought we still focused on the Inquisitor as he opened the door to the Herald's Rest.
Has Kiara come out of her chambers at all today?
Most everyone in Skyhold was in their beds at this late hour, so Cullen didn't see anyone but the dwarf barkeep as he walked in. He dragged his feet toward the bar and ordered his ale from Cabot, who said nothing when he gave him his pint. Cullen sipped from his mug and leaned his back against the bar to scan the tavern once more. He had a better vantage point to see past the fireplace from this position. Now he could see a table littered with empty mugs just behind the fire, and in the only chair was Inquisitor Kiara Trevelyan.
Her blonde hair was down and in a wild state, so unlike her usual well-kept bun. Cullen had never seen her hair down before. It was beautiful. Even at the barely lit table, her hair reflected the light as if it were jewelry under bright scrutiny for appraisal. The length was gently splashing onto her shoulders in small, loose waves. "Cullen," she called to him. He was so mesmerized by yet another attractive trait of hers that it didn't register swiftly enough that she had noticed him, let alone called his name.
"H-hello, Inquisitor," he said a bit too fast.
"Grab a chair and join me," she pushed some glasses out of the way.
"I really shouldn’t, Inquisitor. It's late and..."
"Just come sit down," she cut him off, "I'm tired of drinking alone.”
It wasn't the best time for him to be alone with her considering the track his thoughts seemed to be traveling on, but he could see from her puffy eyes that she needed the company. He cared too much for her to leave her alone like this, so he sat down. For several minutes, the only sounds they made were the sounds of placing their mugs down after a gulp of alcohol. Kiara started the conversation.
"I fucked up."
Cullen spits out some of his ale at the suddenness and vulgarity of her confession. "How so?" he implored her. His brow furrowed as he managed to swallow what was left of his drink.
She looked up from her empty glass to explain. "I let my emotions get the better of me. I allowed myself to become close to someone and obscured my better judgment."
"Caring for someone is never a mistake, Inquisitor." Cullen empathized.
"It's Kiara right now. We're not working", she waved two fingers up towards Cabot, "we're drinking, Cullen."
Two more pints appeared on the table almost instantly. Kiara took a large swig from the new pint and continued.
"I'm a circle mage, always will be. I learned to distance myself from others. I made sure not to be extraordinary at any certain studies, skills, or magic and not be exceptionally bad. No one took notice of me; I made myself invisible because I didn't want to be watched."
Cullen felt a pang of guilt for her knowing his Templar background. She did all that to keep people like him from watching her.
"And then this happened!" she exclaimed as she raised her hand, bearing the green glow marking her the only person capable of closing the rifts in the sky. "I was only there to watch and listen to the negotiations. I had no role in the mage and templar war! I couldn't be invisible anymore with this. Everyone is always watching The Herald of Andraste." Her shoulders dropped with a sigh as she continued.
"Then I met Blackwall," the tears began streaming down her cheeks as his name escaped her lips, "and I thought to myself as we became closer that he could be my Alistair. The Hero of Ferelden is my cousin, and I had hoped that he could be my rock. Like Alistair was and is for her." She was struggling through the despair to speak. "I thought that if I found a love like hers that I could deal with being seen, that I could handle this burden as they did together for the Blight."
Kiara stared at the floor, letting the tears fall onto the planks. She was far past the point of caring to try and hide them. "I should have known better. An invisible mage could never earn that same type of love."
"That's enough!" Cullen shouted. He would not allow her to think like that any longer. "The Hero of Ferelden and Alistair is a love to be envied, they are amazing people, and your cousin deserved that love, but you are just as amazing as she! You deserve that kind of love and more, Kiara!" She finally looked up from the floor with those emerald orbs glittering with tears.
"How do you know that?" she begged him.
Cullen stumbled out of his chair to kneel at her side and take her hands in his. "I just know, Kiara," he said as he gave her small hands a delicate squeeze.
Blubbering out now, "The man who supposedly loved me lied to me about who he was the whole time I was with him! How can I deserve anything when I can't even get honesty from someone who supposedly loves me?"
Cullen released her hands and gently cupped her face as he wiped the tears from her cheeks with his thumbs. "I have never lied to you," he whispered as he moved his lips to meet hers.
His lips were gentle and cold compared to her hot mouth held tight together due to crying for a full day. Cullen expected to be pushed away any second, but Kiara's next motion was tilting her head in response.
Oh, Maker. She’s returning my kiss.
Cullen had dreamed of what her lips would feel like against his and never believed it would happen, but here she was, leaning into his kiss and parting her mouth to let her tongue through. Kiara grazed his bottom lip with her tongue just enough to send a fever up the Commander's spine. He had to taste her now. His right hand moved to the back of her neck to pull her in closer and allow his own tongue deeper access. The Inquisitor moaned into him as he ran his taste buds over hers. Cullen urgently had to pull back to breathe and regain himself before she made that sound again. It was heaven to his ears, and he would lose control if she did it once more.
"I'm sorry, Inquisitor," he apologized as he stood up, taking a step back from her. With his head bowed, he said, "I don’t know what came over me, and I beg your forgiveness."
Kiara stood up and moved closer to him. "Look at me, Cullen," she demanded. He brought his eyes to hers once more. "I will not forgive you if you say that kiss was a mistake," she stated as she grabbed his hand.
"It wasn’t a mistake, my Lady," smiling from the touch of her hand.
"I would like to discuss the kiss in the future," she told him while she moved her thumb in circles on the top of his hand.
"So, would I, Kiara," Cullen said as he placed a kiss on her hand.
She pulled her hand away, wished him goodnight, and walked out of the tavern. Cullen touched his lips, remembering her feel once more before heading back to his chambers to toss and turn, trying not to relive the kiss.