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Bernie

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((Late Justinian, 9:41 Dragon; Inside what will be the Herald’s Rest tavern; Cullen ))

Bernie stood in the open doorway, letting the light coming through behind her illuminate the interior of the building. Sunlight streamed through the dust that danced in the air like snow, falling onto tables, chairs, and benches laying in various stages of deterioration and shrouded with a thick coating of the same, illuminating the nearer shadows but leaving the furthest reaches untouched. The windows were coated with grime: decades, if not centuries worth that blocked light as effectively as brick walls. And yet, save for the occasional broken pane, they remained intact. She took a few steps inside, grasped the back of a chair that seemed more or less intact and gave it an experimental shake; it wobbled and creaked alarmingly, then disintegrated into pieces, sending billows of dust into the air. The furniture would have to be repaired or replaced; the stairs leading to the upper floor were broken; the roof was in disrepair; the chimney would likely need to be cleared of debris and a rat or three, and by the smell of it, some larger fauna would need to be evicted, as well, but the structure itself seemed sound. The builders of this place had wrought well.

Whoever they had been. She cocked her head thoughtfully, feeling the currents that eddied around her, the magic like nothing she had encountered before. The Veil was thin here, but she felt no demons lurking beyond, eager to find a way through. Leliana’s correspondence had been sketchy on the details of the mountain redoubt that a wounded and demoralized Inquisition had found, seemingly by a stroke of luck but it had been clear on one thing: the organization desperately needed a place where its members could set aside their worries and relax for a time, a place to encourage camaraderie and rebuild the morale that had been so thoroughly decimated.

That was something that she knew a bit about.

There had also been mention - in the most circumspect of terms - that an assassination or two might be requested, but that bridge could be crossed when it was reached. She had heard enough to know that the Inquisition and its Herald, Maker-sent or not, were trying to fix the mess that the Chantry had unleashed. To that end, she would at least listen to whatever Leliana wanted done.

“My lady?”

Bernie pivoted toward the door, mildly surprised that she had been recognized as female. She had as little love for being out in Fereldan winters as Sofia did, but while her cousin took pains to incorporate Antivan style to her cold-weather gear, blending in was a habit that Bernie was in no hurry to lose. In her heavy leggings and furs, with a wool-lined leather hat, she could have passed for an Avvar at no great distance. She had a couple of dresses in the pack that had been secured to her horse. Tomas would be bringing the rest of her luggage in his wagon in a few days; she’d tried to convince him to let a younger courier handle the task, but the old goat was positively giddy at the prospect of a part of Ferelden that he hadn’t yet discovered (and more than a little peeved that he hadn’t known about it).

The young man dipped a bow as soon as she faced him. “Eustace Morris, Quartermaster to the Inquisition, at your service, my lady!” he proclaimed grandly. Marcher, from the sound of him, and the look: pale blonde hair, fair skin with rosy cheeks and blue eyes. Had she said young? He looked barely out of adolescence, peach fuzz visible on his cheeks and chin. “You are the new tavern keep, yes?” he inquired eagerly. “Lady Nightingale told me to expect you and to give you whatever assistance you require,Lady -” He trailed off, one pale eyebrow arched in query.

“Bernadette Il Rossa,” she supplied. “Just ‘Bernie’ is fine, though. I’m certainly no lady.” He was polite; she’d give him that. “Quartermaster to the Inquisition,” she repeated, letting her eyes twinkle gently as she looked him over. “A formidable job for one so young.” Had the ranks of the Inquisition been decimated so thoroughly, or was he a prodigy?

His rosy cheeks flushed even further. “I - am untested, it is true,” he stammered, then drew himself up. “But I am determined, and sworn to the Inquisition. My family has trading ties across Thedas; I will use those as a foundation and build even further, until our web stretches to the northmost tip of Seheron to Gwaren and merchants of all stripe clamor to do business with us!”

They were that hard up, then. The defeat at Haven had no doubt taken a toll on their burgeoning reputation that would take time to recoup. “Very good,” she told him with a warm smile. “As for what I need -” she glanced around, letting her smile grow whimsical. “A tavern needs drink and food. Good drink and food.” Cheap ale and rotgut liquor might do for drowning sorrows, but they seldom lifted spirits. And a good meal could compensate for any number of hardships.

“Of course!” Eustace agreed. “Our scouts are salvaging food stores from Haven as we speak; the flocks and herds are being gathered and moved to this location, and our hunters are most skilled at bringing down game! I’ll ensure that plenty makes it to your kitchen! As for beverages -” He squirmed a bit, looking abashed. “The tavern in Haven was completely destroyed, and its stocks with it, I’m afraid. I have begun sending out inquiries, but with the current state of Thedas, many folk are taking solace in drink, and merchants are reluctant to ship so far when they can sell close to home and save on freight costs.”

“I see.” She reached into a pocket and withdrew the small roll of parchment and stick of charcoal that she carried. Brushing dust from a tabletop, she unfurled a length of parchment, wrote several lines, then tore it off and handed it to him. “Contact these traders and tell them what we need,” she said briskly. “Tell them it’s for Bernie and that she needs it last week.”

His eyes lit up as he scanned the list. “My messengers will leave within the hour, my - Bernie!” he vowed, turning to go with the demeanor of one charging into battle.

“Not just yet.” Her words brought him around mid-stride, and she gestured at the dusty and dilapidated chamber. “I’ve cleaning and repairs to see to in the meantime,” she told him. “Might you be able to round up some buckets of hot water and soap, scrub brushes, a broom and mop or two, and a few oil lamps, please?”

“At once, my lady!” She didn’t bother correcting him; it would either take or it wouldn’t. His departure was even more enthusiastic than before, heartened by the prospect of being able to immediately deliver on a request.

Once he was gone, she took a last look around and stepped out into the sunshine and began doffing her cold-weather wear, draping it over a low wall beside a staircase leading up to the battlements until she was down to a simple tunic and trews. With the towering walls to block the wind, the temperatures were quite tolerable. She garnered a few curious glances as she exchanged the hat for a green kerchief that covered her hair and pulled a pair of leather gloves from her pack, deciding to leave the heavy-soled boots on until all the debris had been cleared out.

Back inside, she cast her eyes upward, debating the wisdom of trying to clamber to the second floor to have a go at prying the windows open. Deciding it probably wasn’t a good idea and resolving to ask Eustace for a ladder when he returned, she summoned a wisp to provide light for the moment.

Cautiously. Blood magic had made her wary of any denizens beyond the Veil, and she had only even learned the spell a couple of years earlier, from Sofia, while her cousin was instructing her in Creation magic. Had there been any trace of malevolence in the energies that swirled so close to the surface here, she would not have chanced it, but there was no hint of danger, so she released the magic and smiled as a pale blue light with a vaguely humanoid shape at its center materialized in her palm, bobbling about in ecstatic curiosity.

“Stay close to me,” she instructed it, wondering if it was possible for this simplest of spirits to be twisted into a demon. It immediately zipped to a position just above her shoulder, and she began picking her way carefully through the debris deeper into the structure, curious as to what she might find here.
 

Cullen

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After Haven, the Inquisition needed a place to regroup. The journey to Skyhold itself, however, took a toll on many - Cullen was no exception. Too many of their numbers had been lost, either dead or were wholly unaccounted for. While it was Corypheus' reign of terror that had laid waste to the village, the Commander blamed himself for the Inquisition's losses in turn. Resettling what remained of their forces, within a remote fortress of striking disrepair, did little to hearten Cullen's spirits despite the daily arrival of pilgrims - eager to catch a glimpse of the Herald of Andraste.

The initial singularity of the Inquisition's mission, to defeat Corypheus, had quickly compounded into the desperate need for alliances. Many of those obtained thus far, decided upon in more recent days, were not necessarily of the sort that the Commander had personally agreed with either. These burdens, in their own right, were enough to deprive Cullen of anything remotely resembling a good night's rest. All the same, they were not the only encumbrances the Commander bore.

Irritable and on edge, and throughout the course of the day, Cullen paced both the battlements and the courtyards barking orders at anyone that seemed idle enough to be delegated to task. There was no shortage of work. Skyhold's renovations alone would take weeks, if not months, to complete. Soldiers under Cullen's command who, after Haven, were too injured for active duty yet were still able-bodied enough to stand were ordered to assist Skyhold's builders and engineers. It became a common sight to see those with one arm in a sling, or even those supported by a crutch, still pulling their weight around the stronghold - clearing rubble here, or carrying equipment there - either voluntarily or for fear of a reprimand by the tense Commander.

Cullen's disposition that day was already quite dour when poor Eustace Morris made as if to stride, even if purposefully, past the Commander. "Ser Morris!" Cullen called after.

"C-Commander?" the quartermaster turned about-face. Startled, a piece of torn parchment paper dropped from his grasp.

Cullen, all but marching up to the young quartermaster, soon stood squarely before Eustace. "Any word?"

"Word, ser?"

"The Anderfels Blacksmith," Cullen stated plainly, momentarily crouching down to pick up the stray item that the younger man had let drop to the grass, "Have we secured the weapon designs, or not?"

"It's, uh, a work in progress ser," stammered Morris.

"Progress faster," Cullen told him, his attention suddenly divded between his chastisement of the quartermaster's efforts and the scrawl on the sheet of torn parchment now in his own hand, "We needed those schematics yesterday - what's this about?"

Ser Morris stood nervously before the Commander, gesturing with his hands in such a way as to make plain his uncertainty in terms of directly reclaiming the torn parchment from the Commander's grasp. Cullen quirked a brow at him and merely returned the parchment slip. The quartermaster tucked it away in a pocket this time, for safer keeping. "Lady Bernadette's arrived. It's a list of her trading, uh, associates... ser... Commander... ser."

Cullen's patience was wearing thin, but Eustace that the effect on people. "Lady Bernadette?" he inquired, unfamiliar with the name. He sighed inwardly at their being yet another noble to arrive at Skyhold. While he gleaned the importance of Josephine's work, and the alliances to be made, he had rather hoped that Skyhold's far-flung location would mean that nobles would merely send representatives in their stead - soldiers or advisors like himself; people he could speak plainly to without concerning himself with courtliness. He knew that if he didn't play his part and greet this new, highborn guest, however, that Josephine would give him an earful. "Where is this, Lady Bernadette?"

The quartermaster answered without delay, seeming to finally pick up on the Commander's preference for fast answers, "The tavern, ser!"

Cullen's eyes widened. "The tavern?!" he said increduously, "Eustace, surely not! You didn't leave her there alone, did you?"

"S-ser?"

The Commander pushed past the younger man, stating with as much vexation as genuine concern, "Maker help you should anything happen, Eustace, that building's not structurally sound!" Cullen rushed through the courtyard toward the building in question. It wasn't much of a distance, but there were both laborers and pilgrims about that got into the former templar's way. No sooner had he reached the door of the tavern did one of the worst headaches he'd felt in days find him. Disinclined to cursing outright, Cullen grit his teeth and pressed on - pushing open the door to the derelict tavern with lesser care than he'd intended. Unceremoniously, the door fell off its hinges causing a loud clatter. Cullen's entrance was a subtle as a druffalo in an Orlesian glassware shop.

Though steady-footed, he felt ill. It wasn't until he was inside the tavern that it dawned on him as to why. The air within the run-down building was buzzing with a familiar something. A certain something that Cullen had rather wished to distance himself from, but was finding all too impossible given the Inquisitor's choice to ally with the mages. Magic. "Lady Bernadette, I presume," Cullen half stated, half sighed. Just what the Inquisition needed, another noble... and a mage. Still, the Commander knew his place and continued, "I'm afraid our quartermaster failed to emphasize the unstable condition of this structure. It is not safe to be here. Certainly not by one's own."
 
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Bernie

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Years of experience in stealthy movement stood Bernie in good stead as she picked her way through the debris, and it quickly became apparent that retaining the boots had been a good idea. Birds took flight in the rafters overhead, exiting through the holes in the roof and sending down a light shower of dust and feathers; she paused and lifted one hand over her head as a shield, but no bird shit seemed to be in the mix, so after a moment, she lowered her hand and resumed her progress.

The bar was, she was pleased to discover, well crafted of oak and mahogany, and beneath the layers of dust and bird shit seemed to be in reasonably good condition. She stepped behind it and turned, glancing around the large common room and nodding to herself. Plenty of room for tables, and space before the fireplace would provide a generous dance floor; the open air above it, rising past the third floor to the roof, would keep the dancers from getting too warm. Satisfied, she moved to peer into the kitchen and stopped in the doorway, the wisp bobbing overhead; the roof had largely caved in, but through the jumble of broken timbers and rotted thatch, she could make out two generous hearths and a large stone oven along one wall. She squinted into the far corner … yes, that looked to be the scullery. Excellent. Now -

An almighty crash brought her around, more than half expecting to find the entrance collapsed, which would put her in the embarrassing position of needing assistance to get out of the ruins. But no, the racket had simply been the result of the door being knocked off of its hinges by the precipitous arrival of a broad-shouldered young man wearing a fur-collared mantle and a harried expression.

"Lady Bernadette, I presume." He was trying hard to be courteous, but frustration jutted from every line of him. "I'm afraid our quartermaster failed to emphasize the unstable condition of this structure. It is not safe to be here. Certainly not by one's own." As if to prove his point, the head of the now-vacant door frame dropped to the floor with a clatter.

“It’s not so fragile as all that,” she disagreed, though she did begin making her way toward him, dismissing the spell wisp as she left the shadows. She had been surprised just how many folk in Denerim had not seemed to care a whit that she was a mage, but a lifetime of circumspection was hard to set aside, and there were still enough harboring a virulent antipathy to magic that flaunting it was not a good idea. “You simply need to be careful in your movements.” The rebuke was gently delivered; she did not consider herself a healer by any stretch, but after better than fifteen years tending bar, she could tell when a man had a headache.

“Call me Bernie, please,” she told him, stepping past and over the fallen lintel out into the sunshine. She had seen what she needed to for the moment. “Leliana asked me to take over the tavern … such as it is.” She moved to her pack, withdrew the letter that she had presented to the guards on her arrival and offered it to him. “I was told that she was in a meeting, so I thought I would take a look inside to see what needed to be done.” She chuckled ruefully. “I’ve got my work cut out for me … as do we all.” She looked around thoughtfully at the massive structure which, while bearing the wounds of time and neglect, was remarkably well preserved. “A most fortunate discovery, all the same,” she observed, turning back to the young man. Fortunate enough to give rise to the notion that the Maker might indeed be taking notice of the situation. Better late - very late - than never, she supposed.
 

Cullen

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The floor creaking beneath their feet, as they respectively closed the distance between one another, did very little to put the Commander's mind at ease. “It’s not so fragile as all that. You simply need to be careful in your movements.” Cullen quirked a brow as if to voicelessly state his disagreement in turn. He took especially cautious strides, given that he was the heavier of them, as the mage introduced herself in full.

Upon closer inspection, the Commander became uncomfortably aware of the older woman's comeliness. He avoided direct eye contact with her, outright. Focusing, instead, on their ramshackle surroundings. His headache was no better, but no worse either. Just ever presently there, especially around mages.

"So you're Bernie," he recalled, and afterward went on to confess upon receiving her papers, "My apologies. Leliana had mentioned. Only I fully expected Bernie to be, well, a man."

A stout man. With a beard.

He held the letter up toward a stream of light that had filtered in from a broken window, so that he might better review it. Truth be told it was still too dark in the tavern to do so. Cullen sighed and returned her letter, explaining of his abrupt arrival, "Ser Morris had told me Lady Bernadette had arrived. Pardon my concern. We've had a number of nobles arrive just recently."

"As for this tavern, such as it is... or was, at some point - I'm not certain I see any potential here,"
he told her, "Although, to be fair, I've little to compare it to. I haven't spent much time in taverns, derelict or otherwise. Do you really think you can turn this place around?"

He looked about, taking in the space before them both and added, "Is it even necessary? Worth the effort?"

To the Commander, restoring the tavern seemed like a waste of resources. Were they to tear the structure down, they'd be set for firewood and kindling for the year... not that he hoped they'd have to remain at Skyhold that long. All the same, he had spoke in earnest when admitting he'd spent precious little time in alehouses. While he understood that, by and large, taverns appealed to the masses - he never had the inclination to frequent one himself.
 

Bernie

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As soon as she had emerged from the shadows enough for him to see her clearly, the young man flushed slightly and immediately began looking anywhere but at her. Maker only knew how he’d react to seeing her in one of her usual dresses, instead of a tunic and trews. Boyishly bashful or annoyingly prudish? She opted to give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment.

Comprehension touched his features when she told him what she preferred to be called. "So you're Bernie," he said, accepting the missive from Leliana readily, likely glad of a place to turn his eyes. "My apologies. Leliana had mentioned. Only I fully expected Bernie to be, well, a man."

She felt her lips twitch. “I get that a lot … though it generally doesn’t survive the first meeting.” She could - and had - disguised herself to hide her gender, but if she didn’t make that effort, there was no mistaking her as anything but female.

"Ser Morris had told me Lady Bernadette had arrived,” he explained, angling the parchment into the available light to read it before offering it back to her. “Pardon my concern. We've had a number of nobles arrive just recently."

“Caution is understandable,” she told him, folding the letter and tucking it into a pocket. “Particularly now.” The odds that the attack on Haven had been preceded by espionage were high. Wanting to know whose eyes were inside the walls was only natural. “I don’t tend to be as high maintenance as the typical noble, though.”

"As for this tavern, such as it is... or was, at some point - I'm not certain I see any potential here," he remarked, glancing about the wreckage dubiously. "Although, to be fair, I've little to compare it to. I haven't spent much time in taverns, derelict or otherwise. Do you really think you can turn this place around?"

“I know I can,” she replied with brisk confidence. “It will take time and effort, of course, and seeing to things such as security and shelter will take precedence, but I can have something set up out front as soon as some stocks arrive.” Tomas was bringing a crate of mugs and tumblers with her bags, as well as a few bottles from her private stocks to be held in reserve.

"Is it even necessary?” he wondered, plainly unconvinced. “Worth the effort?"

“A good tavern is,” she assured him, “and that is exactly what I intend this to be. Soldiers drink. Not all of them,” she conceded with a respectful nod toward present company, “but a good many, and if there’s none readily available, they’ll try to get whatever they can, which can mean smuggling in rotgut that might leave half of them blind or blowing out a wall with a makeshift still. I intend to serve quality ales, wines and spirits, priced low enough that no one need go without a drink or two if they want, and costly enough that no one is going to go on a bender - and I don’t allow that in my establishments. I intend there to be good food to warm their bellies, a fire to warm their backsides, and music to warm their hearts. Your people just suffered a major defeat, and are facing a long campaign; they need a boost to morale, someplace they can come together and forge bonds in something other than combat, and that is what I can provide, Ser -” She paused, regarding him expectantly.
 

Cullen

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“I get that a lot … though it generally doesn’t survive the first meeting," Bernie supplied, candidly.

“Caution is understandable. Particularly now. I don’t tend to be as high maintenance as the typical noble, though." Feeling a little more at ease as their exchange continued, the Commander returned his gaze toward her. Insight and transparency, he'd found, was a rare commodity among nobles. He tilted his head, ever so slightly, to indicate his appreciation as she continued. “I know I can. It will take time and effort, of course, and seeing to things such as security and shelter will take precedence, but I can have something set up out front as soon as some stocks arrive.”

Cullen need not interject, anyone with a pair of working eyes could see that security and shelter would indeed take precedence at Skyhold. While work on the stronghold was underway and guard rotations had been established, the Inquisition had yet much to do. Blessedly, their scouts reported no immediate threats in the surrounding area. At the very least, for however brief a time, they could breathe.

Bernie responded to him furthermore, “A good tavern is. And that is exactly what I intend this to be. Soldiers drink. Not all of them but a good many, and if there’s none readily available, they’ll try to get whatever they can, which can mean smuggling in rotgut that might leave half of them blind or blowing out a wall with a makeshift still." Fair point. Cullen responded with a long-suffering sigh, though, as if the mere thought of such a thing happening at Skyhold revived his headache.

"I intend to serve quality ales, wines and spirits, priced low enough that no one need go without a drink or two if they want, and costly enough that no one is going to go on a bender - and I don’t allow that in my establishments. I intend there to be good food to warm their bellies, a fire to warm their backsides, and music to warm their hearts. Your people just suffered a major defeat, and are facing a long campaign; they need a boost to morale, someplace they can come together and forge bonds in something other than combat, and that is what I can provide, Ser -”

The Commander thumbed his temple and laughed ever so lightly, telling her, "Far be it from me to stand in the way of someone with as much vision as passion for such an undertaking, then." Clearly, Leliana had made the right choice in Bernie. He shouldn't have been surprised. Part of him still wondered if Bernie was one of Leliana's spies, however. It seemed to him that a tavern keep would make an excellent one. Nonetheless, his sense of courtesy still presented itself.

"The Inquisition has had a steady number of newcomers. Few as far as Denerim, however. I'm certain Leliana would not fault you for a day's rest," Cullen told her, casting his gaze across the ramshackle tavern, "These old bones will be here tomorrow, should you wish to do so." His latter statement held some scepticism as he tested the floorboards by shifting his weight. Their creaks did little to reassure him.

"Have you been assigned quarters?" he inquired. Surely Leliana hadn't expected Bernie to take rest in the tavern, her being a noble and present condition that the structure was in. Mage or not, the Commander would not approve of such an arrangement. Josephine wouldn't hear of it, either.
 

Bernie

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Despite his obvious doubts, the young man listened respectfully to Bernie’s discourse on the benefits that a properly run tavern could bring to the Inquisition. The sigh that escaped him when she spoke of exploding stills made her wonder if similar shenanigans had already taken place. "Far be it from me to stand in the way of someone with as much vision as passion for such an undertaking, then,” he conceded at length, with an indulgent chuckle, absently massaging his temple with a thumb. "The Inquisition has had a steady number of newcomers,” he went on. “Few as far as Denerim, however. I'm certain Leliana would not fault you for a day's rest." He glanced around at the dust that was beginning to settle. "These old bones will be here tomorrow, should you wish to do so."

His expression suggested that he would not consider it a great loss if he were proved wrong, and the floor sent up a noisy protest when he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

“I’d prefer to get a bit done before retiring,” she deflected smoothly. “I’d hate to have Eustace round up cleaning supplies for nothing, and pulling some of the debris out shouldn’t take long.”

"Have you been assigned quarters?"

“I brought a tent.” She looked about them with a laugh. “Leliana warned me what condition the place was in, and if the rest is similar, I think I’d sooner have canvas and open sky over my head for the time being, and it’s far from the first time I’ve done so.” She paused, regarding him closely. He wasn’t being ostentatious about it, but the headache was plainly lingering. “I do have some skill in mixing potions that can ease headaches, even those not caused by hangovers.” This was not a man who would welcome the bawdy banter that she engaged in with some of her regulars, but perhaps a nurturing approach might be better received. “I also have a few healing spells at my disposal.” He’d seen the wisp; that he hadn’t bolted indicated that at least he wasn’t terrified of mages. “If you still have injured in need of care, I can offer my services.” For that, she would forego starting the cleanup today.

“And I still do not know your name,” she chided him gently, letting her eyes twinkle ever so slightly while the distance she kept between them should make it plain that she was not trying to flirt with him. He didn’t seem the churlish sort, so perhaps the headache had caused him to miss her not-exactly-subtle cue earlier.
 

Cullen

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#8
Bernie wasn't one to be deterred, Cullen quickly came to realize. "I'd prefer to get a bit done before retiring. I'd hate to have Eustace round up cleaning supplies for nothing, and pulling some of the debris out shouldn't take long."

"I've men and women under my command to spare,"
he told her, "Even those returning from the field a little worse for wear are just content to remain useful. They would be glad to assist – should you need help clearing any of the larger debris. Eustace already has a list of names, those looking for assignment. He should have mentioned." The Commander seemed briefly annoyed.

As for accommodation, Bernie surprised Cullen in requiring so little. "I brought a tent," she confessed, prompting the Commander to smirk a little. It certainly hadn't been her intention, but she impressed him nonetheless. "Leliana warned me what condition the place was in," she went on, "And if the rest is similar, I think I'd sooner have canvas and open sky over my head for the time being, and it's far from the first time I've done so." Bernie paused, unexpectedly – looking Cullen over. He felt immediately self-conscious, for reasons he could not comprehend. After a moment, she said, "I do have some skill in mixing potions that can ease headaches, even those not caused by hangovers."

Cullen sighed, his shoulders slumping. "It's that obvious?" he said, laughing at himself ever so slightly.

"I also have a few healing spells at my disposal-" The Commander took a step back. It hadn't been a deliberate choice, either. He hadn't blinked at, what he assumed, had been mention of non-magical potions. The prospect of allowing a mage to cast spells on him, however, was unnerving. His reasons were his own. "If you still have injured in need of care, I can offer my services."

Again, he sighed. Far be it from him to stand in the way of Bernie using her abilities to heal those who truly needed it. "I'm fine," he said, perhaps a little too curtly. Attempting to redirect her focus, he added, "You're kind to offer, but the medics at the infirmary, I'm sure, would appreciate the help more. They could certainly use it. We've a number of wounded. An ongoing affair, I'm afraid, all things considered."

"And I still do not know your name."

"Ah. Yes," he granted, "Pardon my lack of decorum." Josephine would be wholly unimpressed with him, in that moment. "Cullen Rutherford. Commander of the Inquisition's forces." In lieu of an outstretched hand, he attempted a rather deplorable bow. The Ambassador would have winced, had she seen it. Leliana would have just laughed at him.
 

Bernie

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"I've men and women under my command to spare," the soldier informed Bernie when she spoke of clearing debris from the interior of the tavern. "Even those returning from the field a little worse for wear are just content to remain useful. They would be glad to assist – should you need help clearing any of the larger debris. Eustace already has a list of names, those looking for assignment.” Irritation touched his handsome features. “He should have mentioned."

“Eustace is young,” Bernie reminded him gently … but pointedly, “and shouldering a task that would daunt one with far more experience. He seems determined, if more than a bit overwhelmed, but I think he will do well, given a chance, and perhaps an assistant or two. More capable and willing hands make any task feel less overwhelming; to that end, I would welcome whatever assistance can be marshaled on my behalf.” It would also be a step toward the tavern being seen as a community asset, belonging to all. Something to take pride in, as well as comfort.

Her offer of an alchemical remedy for his headache earned her a surprised look and a self-conscious laugh. "It's that obvious?" he asked sheepishly.

“Perhaps only to one who has known their share,” she assured him. Or knew the signs and cared to look. She qualified on both counts. He was far less sanguine about her mention of magic, recoiling visibly and his features hardening for a long moment before he caught himself and uttered a chagrined sigh.

"I'm fine," he countered tersely, adding with visible effort, "You're kind to offer, but the medics at the infirmary, I'm sure, would appreciate the help more. They could certainly use it. We've a number of wounded. An ongoing affair, I'm afraid, all things considered."

“And likely to remain so,” she agreed gravely. “Magical healing can be a boon there: mending wounds before infection can set in and healing bones in a fraction of the time, but I agree that for headaches and similar maladies, non-magical remedies are the best approach.”

He was visibly chagrined when he realized that he had neglected to introduce himself. "Ah. Yes," he said awkwardly. "Pardon my lack of decorum. Cullen Rutherford. Commander of the Inquisition's forces."

She knew that name, had heard it from mages escaped from Kinloch Hold and the Gallows. A templar, but she tamped down the instinctive bristling; this one had been given good reason to distrust magic, and yet, he had defied Kirkwall’s Knight-Commander when she had ordered the Rite of Annulment on the Circle there and broken with the Chantry to serve the Inquisition.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Ser Rutherford,” she told him with a warm smile. Final judgment would be reserved, but he had earned the benefit of the doubt for the moment, though she suspected that he would not return the favor, were he to discover that she was a blood mage. No matter; she did not anticipate needing to call upon those skills within these walls. “Now,” she dusted off her hands on her trews and took a last look around, “if you will show me to your infirmary, I will see if I can be of assistance. Tomorrow will be soon enough to begin here.” She could divide her time between duties easily enough. “And the offer of a potion for your headache still stands.”
 

Cullen

Commander of the Inquisition
Canon Character
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Templar
Posts
30
#10
Bernie's coming to the defence of Eustace somewhat softened the Commander, although he was clearly still annoyed with the younger man. "We had another, far more experienced quartermaster in Haven," he lamented. Unfortunately, Threnn had unpopular political views. "I suppose she set a high standard, there. I'll consider assigning someone to assist Eustace, perhaps."

To her credit, Bernie certainly seemed as though all she wanted was to help in her own right. "Magical healing can be a boon there: mending wounds before infection can set in and healing bones in a fraction of the time, but I agree that for headaches and similar maladies, non-magical remedies are the best approach," she told him. He wouldn't argue that point. Even the templars had benefited from the Circle mages talents for healing, on occasion. He doubted she was a Circle mage, however. Though, he might be wrong. He hoped, rather. It was an awkward thing to ask, all the same.

Unlike his barging into the ramshackle tavern at the start of their exchange, their formal introduction was courteous—as far as Cullen could tell, anyway. Bernie dusted off her hands, still addressing him, "It is a pleasure to meet you, Ser Rutherford. Now, if you will show me to your infirmary, I will see if I can be of assistance. Tomorrow will be soon enough to begin here. And the offer of a potion for your headache still stands."

"Whatever time you can spare between projects will certainly be of some help," he replied, almost gratefully. He turned as if to reach for the door, suddenly remembering what became of it upon his unceremonious entry. "Ah," he said, adjusting his gesture to merely indicate the open space where the door had once been, "Right this way." He would allow Bernie to exit first, but followed her out promptly after as if he was still worried the roof might come down upon them.

"As you can see," he told her while they cross the courtyard, indicating those milling about, "We're still sorting ourselves out after Haven, but people seem to arrive at Skyhold daily. The fortress itself holds promise. It's certainly safer here." Inwardly Cullen wondered why Solas hadn't mentioned Skyhold earlier. That wasn't a thought he felt he should share aloud, however. At least, not to anyone outside of the war room. The walk to the infirmary wasn't a long one at all. As they turned toward it, they ran into Cassandra—taking a wooden opponent to task with her sword. Cullen casually stopped in his tracks, admiring her swordsmanship for a moment before making the decision to introduce she and Bernie.

"Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast," he gestured. Cassandra initially grunted at the interruption, but looked up and lowered her sword-arm afterward.

"What is it?" she asked, unpretentiously.

"Lady Bernadette," he introduced formally, "An associate of Leliana's. Just arrived to help us settle in at Skyhold."

Cassandra seemed confused, "Lady Bernadette?"

"Bernie," Cullen answered, quirking a slightly amused brow toward Bernadette's direction.

"Oh!" the Seeker said, warming a little, "So you're Bernie. Leliana didn't mention that you're a noble." Or a woman, Cullen thought, but didn't say it. Cassandra went on, "My apologies. I hope the Commander received you with better decorum than I."

Cullen rubbed his neck, awkwardly. "Well, I tried," he admitted. "As I said," he told Bernie, apologetically, "We're still sorting ourselves out."

"Where are you two headed?" Cassandra inquired thereafter, sheathing her blade. It seemed she had a mind to join them.
 
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