[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 16
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cassandra Pentaghast♀, Cullen ♂
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Notes: Cullen and Cassandra have a chat about politics and the Grand Enchanter.
Cassandra knocked on the stone arch of the doorway, as she entered the room. "This is a very nice office, Commander. Unfortunately, if the Grand Enchanter has her way, you may no longer have it."
The quill snapped in Cullen’s hand, dribbling ink onto the letter he’d been failing to write, and he reached for the cup of whiskey he’d been slowly working his way down, for the last three hours. "Has the Grand Enchanter got something against the way we do things, in Kirkwall, or is this a personal problem?"
"Oh, neither." Cassandra took in the décor and studied the titles of the books along one wall. "But, she is striving to remove the Circles from templar control. As if such a thing could be accomplished with a simple vote."
"I’d heard she might be trying something to that effect. But, how is that so different to what we’ve achieved, here?" Cullen pitched the quill into the bin and wadded up the drippy remains of the letter to follow it. "We’re magical guardsmen. There’s been no demonstrated need to keep mages imprisoned. It makes them that much more likely to call upon demons, just to go to the corner store. Like this, they live like anyone else. And then we go solve any problems caused by mages or magic, just like you’d call the guard to deal with a mugger or a killer."
Cassandra made a sound of acknowledgement in the back of her throat, a sound that reminded Cullen of Carver, and Cullen really didn’t need to talk to another Carver today. She picked up a book sticking out of Cullen’s shelf and inspected its cover. "Then perhaps you have more in common with the Grand Enchanter than I had been led to believe. That is a very controversial view, Knight-Commander, and I would be careful with it. Word is spreading of what happened here, and between the rebellion here and the vote Grand Enchanter Fiona requests, the Order is on edge."
"I fail to see how a vote is a bad idea," Cullen said, watching as she replaced the book and picked up another one. He spied the cover and blushed up to his hairline. Maker. He knew better than to leave that Orlesian trash out in the open. "It, er… It’s best to see what can be solved peacefully. If word of what happened here has spread, then maybe others in the Order will understand how needless that violence was."
As he spoke, Cassandra thumbed through the book, her expression carefully neutral, except for one arched eyebrow. "And if peaceful measures don’t work? I’m afraid that, in times like this, they so rarely do."
"They certainly didn’t work, here," Cullen pointed out, looking even tireder than he had. Maker’s breath, this job had aged him a decade in the last few months. "I had a friend — I suppose I can call him that — who tried for years to solve things with letters and pamphlets. On the other hand, here, we had Meredith’s … unfortunate intersection with that strange red lyrium. It was like it took her fears and made her believe they were real. It was almost like she was possessed by a demon. I hope things are smoother in places that aren’t dealing with her like."
"Centuries of tradition are nearly as forceful as demons, in their way, and sometimes even more so. These things have always been the way. How can you be sure they are not still right?" Cassandra gestured with the book.
"Because this hasn’t always been the way. This is the way, because Emperor Drakon of Orlais was trying to save the mages from the cultists hunting them. He brought both sides into the Chantry, told them they each had a place. But, what have we done with that place? We were meant to watch over the mages — to protect them and everyone else from demons and evil intent. Now we’re watching the mages — more than just watching them! We’re taking them as children, raising them as if they’re not even human, and then punishing them for not acting like people. Even in Kinloch Hold, I saw things that should never have happened." Cullen choked and pressed a palm to his forehead as the headache he’d been ignoring flared at the memories. "I watched a man with no hope presented with a demon, and he turned it away. It killed three templars, and it could have freed him from that cell, but he didn’t take what it was offering. He was much too upset about what it had done to his cat. The demons came for me, too, Seeker. I know how hard that choice was. And I think we need to provide an environment where it’s less tempting to accept a demon’s offer. Where, unless you’ve got delusions of grandeur, there’s not a lot they can offer."
"People always want something, no matter their circumstances," Cassandra replied. "It is in their nature. And mages are people, as you have been working hard to remind this city. I admire you, Cullen. You believe in what you say, and you’re trying to make a difference. I don’t know if I agree with your position, but I admire that you’re doing something about it instead of pontificating. Thedas needs more men and women of action."
"Oh. I… thank you." Cullen blinked. Looking at her over his drink, it occurred to Cullen that she was sizing him up, and in a wave of panic, he remembered what Anton had told him about her. "Please don’t ask me to lead the Inquisition," he blurted, before realising how presumptuous that was. He clapped a hand over his mouth. Maybe it was time to stop with the whiskey.
Up went that judgemental eyebrow again, but Cassandra didn’t look surprised. "The thought occurred to me for a moment," she admitted, "but you are needed here. Moreover, I… suspect a templar leading the Inquisition would rather defeat the purpose, no matter how sympathetic he is to mages."
Cullen cleared his throat and dropped his hand, trying to regain some of his dignity. "All very true."
"Now, if I tell you something, Ser Cullen," Cassandra said as she approached the desk, the book still clasped in front of her, "do you swear on your life to keep it between us?"
Her stare was sharp, and Cullen nodded, swallowing.
"This book is dreadful. You are better off with the sequel, which picks up with Adelaide’s daughter. It’s a bit slow at the start, but the writer really finds her stride in the fourth chapter."