“I should prepare for travel then?” Kiara asked Leliana.
“Yes, Inquisitor,” she answered quickly and added, “I hope you can spare Dorian and Solas. They are both busy with research we need on Corypheus.”
“Of course,” Kiara said as she gathered her parchments. “I’ll ask Cole, Bull, and Cassandra to come with me.”
She turned to leave with a large stack of parchment in her arms, but she was stopped short by the Commander standing in her path. He looked down at her with a kind smile on his face.
“I can help with those, Inquisitor.” He gently took the leaves from her.
“Thank you, Commander.” The sad part of her duty now hitting her as they walked out of the war room.
I won’t see his smile again for a good while.
They walked side by side silently through the great hall to the door leading up to her chambers. Cullen broke the silence as Kiara reached out to push it open.
“Kiara,” he called her name and then noticed the other people in the Great Hall. There were eyes and ears everywhere. He cleared his throat and started again. “Inquisitor, I’ll give these back to you here. It wouldn’t be proper to go into your chambers.”
Kiara furrowed her brow and tilted her head slightly. Her confusion left as quickly as the realization arrived that they were eyes were on them.
I am always watched again.
“Just step into the hallway and give them to me there, Commander,” she said as she held the door open, “it would be hard for me to hold the door with those in my arms.”
“Oh right,” Cullen said.
They stepped into the alcove just before the steps leading to her room and allowed the door to swing shut behind them. Kiara took the parchments from his hands, swiftly set them down at her feet, and wrapped her arms around Cullen before he had a chance to vocalize any questions about what she was doing.
“Let me have this for a moment, Cullen.” She pleaded in a whisper as she hugged a little tighter, “No one is watching here.”
He put his arms around her to the small of her back and rested his cheek on her head.
“Of course, Kiara.” He sighed out in her embrace and wished to himself that she didn’t have to leave.
She wished the same during the all too short minute they had stolen for themselves.
After Kiara reluctantly let go of their embrace, they had spent the day packing the horses and bags with weapons, foods, and various supplies for at least one week's worth of travel; caches would be found at their destination. The members she asked to accompany her had been available for this mission, and so Cole, Bull, Cassandra, and The Inquisitor left early the following morning. They made excellent time considering the climb down from Skyhold usually presented a struggle, only five days instead of a full week. That left them plenty of food to properly rest for the first night of camp in The Emerald Graves. They set up their tents under one of the many canvases of beautiful trees. Kiara was hammering the last peg into the dirt for her tent when she heard Cole speak.
“The trees miss being Elven.” He was crouched down, staring up at the green leaves with his arms on his knees, keeping him balanced.
The last bit of daylight barely coming through the natural roof to illuminate the wolf statue behind him. The tents were placed around that statue as if it was the connecting piece of a circle. Kiara placed her hammer down and walked closer to their resident spirit.
“What was that, Cole?” She asked as she sat in the grass next to him.
“The Knights wanted to win,” he ran his hand over the top of the grass gently, “ but they would never change their decision.”
“It just gets weirder and weirder. Talking to trees now.” Iron Bull interjected from his position near the middle of the clearing, where he was placing wood down for the fire.
Cassandra walked up from behind her tent with her arms full of wood. She dropped them down into a pile outside of the firepit.
“What is weird, Bull?” She asked him as she wiped the dirt from her tunic.
“Cole is talking to the trees.” He replied while never taking his eyes away from the pit that he was now lighting.
“Ugh,” Cassandra grunted. She sat down on a log near the fire and removed her sword from its sheath on her waist to begin cleaning it.
Kiara extended her arms behind her to lean back, making it easier to look up at the treetops. Her eyes had to adjust to the now dark forest, but she could see some stars between the leaves. It was warm here with all the foliage, and the soft wind was pleasant on her face. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath through her nose. This area and the calmness of it right now reminded her of how she felt with Cullen. Just sitting near him, talking to him, putting her arms around him, or sharing a meal made her feel warm and at peace. They had all been silent for a minute now, just resting in their thoughts. Cole was staring at Kiara now instead of the trees.
“Cullen feels like that, too, with you.” He said to the now startled Inquisitor, who was now having a coughing fit.
“Oh, now this I don’t mind talking about,” Bull managed to chirp in his gruff voice.
“Why?” Kiara spat out between the last few coughs. “I’m sure Dorian has told you everything I’ve told him.”
“But real answers can be found in body language,” Bull said with a wide grin.
Kiara raised her eyebrows high over her now wide eyes. “I’m being interrogated?”
Cassandra’s throat being cleared broke into the conversation very loudly, so Kiara turned her head to look at her.
“Yes,” she answered her question, “ come sit with us.”
The deadpan look on Cassandra’s face convinced Kiara that she best not delay moving herself to a seat around the fire. She sat on another log conveniently placed on Cassandra’s right side.
Why am I so nervous? It feels like I’m meeting his parents!
“Soooo,” Kiara began while fidgeting with loose threads at the bottom of her tunic, “what do you want to know?”
“Who came onto who first?” Bull enthusiastically asked while leaning closer to see her face better in the fire’s light.
Kiara was blushing as she told them about that night following Ranier’s judgment. She only excluded a few details, like the tongue part. Kiara also left out how she was trying to emulate the Hero of Ferelden and Alistair when she was with Ranier. It almost felt like Bull was “reading” that from her mind even though she knew the only one able to read thoughts was Cole.
Please don’t say that out loud, Cole.
“And you care for him?” Cassandra asked a few seconds after she had finished the story.
“Of course, I do!” Kiara answered a bit too loudly.
“I just wanted to make sure, Inquisitor.” Cassandra was smiling gently at her. “I know you’ve been hurt, and I don’t want to see the Commander hurt as well.”
“Then, you aren’t mixing up the feelings you had for the man once known as Blackwall for our Commander Cullen Rutherford?” Bull questioned her.
“No!” Kiara adamantly denied.
“The way he walks into a room as if he always belonged there. Then the way he blushes at anything unfamiliar, how he rubs the back of his neck when he’s embarrassed or stressed. He only does that in front of his friends. His smile.”
“COLE!” Kiara yelled at the voice that was spouting out her feelings. He had followed her over to the fire and was sitting in the grass behind her. Staring intently at her again as he continued “reading” her feelings out loud.
“His loyalty to what best aligns with his morals. That he can admit when he’s wrong but tries his best not to be wrong in the first place, he admits that he isn’t perfect, making it comfortable to be imperfect with him. His honesty.”
“Well,” Bull cut in, “That answers what you like about him.”
Kiara just stared back at Cole, slack-jawed. She didn’t know whether to be angry or grateful for his meddling in her thoughts.
“I was helping,” Cole said before turning his stare towards the fire.
“That was beautiful,” Cassandra said in a quiet voice. She was still looking at her sword in her lap but had stopped moving the cloth along the metal.
“If we’re all done with this ‘interrogation’ now,” Kiara stood up from her log seat, “then we should eat some food and get into our bedrolls.”
“We have some Red Templar Lieutenants to find and kill.”