The Skyhold chapel was a tiny room off the east wing. In it, the two stained-glass windows cast a warm, red and purple hue to the flagstones and four little pews, flames flickering in the lamps on either side of the aisle. At the end of the carpeted stones stood Andraste, eight feet tall with a gentle face and powerful hands, her stony eyes painted with gold leaf, her robes crimson as they swirled on the flagstones, hands outstretched in both blessing and command.
Cullen sat in the first pew, upon Andraste's right.
The metal-framed door creaked on heavy hinges, but the Templar did not move until a shadow settled beside him, and tugged the hood from her head. They sat in silence, Andraste before them, the Knight Captain and the Nightingale.
"You are troubled," said Leliana.
"As are you."
"I observed first." She absently tugged auburn tresses from the folds of her tunic, separating hair from hood. "You don't usually come to the chapel in full armor." She smiled gently.
He returned the gesture, hands bare and folded in his lap, gauntlets forgotten beside him. "And you usually come later."
She hummed, a distinctly musical sound in the incense-laden air. "So I do—and you're very good at deflecting."
"Is it strange that we should be troubled?"
"Not at all, but I have a feeling your concern goes beyond the safety of old friends."
Cullen shifted, armor clinking and softly scraping against the oaken pew. Andraste's stone gaze gave him little comfort, eyes gold and gleaming in the lamplight. "I have few enough to concern me."
"No—your concern is a little closer, I suspect." There were times when the gentle lilt of Leliana's voice was a comfort—in prayer or storytelling. This was not one of them.
"If you have something to say, Nightingale—"
"You're in love."
Cullen's back stiffened; the joints of his armor creaked. "I am distracted."
"You are afraid."
"With all due respect—"
"You can deny it to me all you like, but the time you spend with her says differently."
"Please." The sound was more broken than he'd meant it in the quiet hall.
The sound cracked against the stone, heavy in aromatic air, shuddering like his breath until it was the only sound against glass and altars, softer than the evening light diluted through stained windows.
"I am sorry." Her voice pitched low and gentle. "I did not mean to pry; I wish to help."
His voice came steadily now, a forced, even cadence. "It cannot be helped, but by the Maker himself."
"Is it only because she is a mage? The Maker made her as she is."
He clasped bare hands together. "I have my duties, and the Inquisitor has hers. The Maker has given her a responsibility and a curse; it is my duty to defend."
Leliana released a sharp breath that resembled a most elegant snort. "I'm afraid you cling so hard to the words of your instructors that you cannot speak for yourself."
"The voice is the same."
"If it was, you would not love her, and it would not frighten you."
The gauntlets clattered to the floor. "And what would you have me do?" Cullen's voice mingled with the crash, hot and sharp against the cold clamor on stone. "Would you have the Inquisition weakened?" He stood tall before the pews, broad-shouldered and scarred, firelight gleaming on silver pauldrons and breastplate.
He was dwarfed only by Andraste, bare hands shaking.
"Would you have us destroy each other?" A voice so soft, she almost did not hear. "Would you have me destroy her?" A voice so broken, she wished she had not. "I know what man I am."
Leliana closed her eyes. There was a song, far away, a friend, another time. "I think you do not know what man you will be."
Cullen turned his face away, breath ghosting on the stone of Andraste's outstretched hands.
She pulled her hood again over her hair, and she stood, graceful and silent. "I don't have an answer for you; there's not a soul that can tell you but yours." Leliana rested a gentle hand on a cold, armored shoulder. "The man you will be is your own, Cullen, whatever that man becomes. It is a Divine gift, for better or worse."
The clank of armored knees on stone cracked upon her ears.
Her final glance was of the man kneeling at Andraste's feet, bathed in crimson light of flames in the stained window. The door creaked heavily shut, paying no heed to the craftsmanship of Andraste's image, of the way the evening light played upon glass flames, a purple-robed prophet, nor the silver sword that pierced her heart.
In the silence, Cullen prayed.