Kate decided to join the Inquisition.
It happened sometime between the moment she collapsed on the floor crying, and the moment when the Chantry bells began to ring the sunset prayers. She couldn’t remember exactly when she made up her mind, but by the time she stood and began to dress, she had accepted her place in the Inquisition. To that end, Kate stopped chanting ‘one step at a time.’ She instead told herself: ‘For Robert.‘
For Robert’s sake, Kate got up off the floor and got washed and dressed. For Robert’s sake, she said a prayer. And for Robert’s sake, she would do whatever else needed to be done.
Of course, Kate mused, if Robert were here, he would have teased her about all this. If he were here, he would have told her to at least honor him with some style. He would have poked her in the ribs, told her to stop being so mopey. He would have encouraged her to tell naughty joke in his honor, maybe pull a prank or two, and to move on. Kate chuckled at the thought.
She had no naughty jokes at the moment, and pranks seemed a bad idea, but at least she could get moving.
For Robert, then, she thought.
Kate exited her room and entered the nave. The air was still cool in the Chantry, and there was no one in sight. Kate supposed they were all outside, awaiting the announcement of the Inquisition.
A bang echoed out into the Chantry, starting at the doors and reverberating into the darkness. Kate jumped back a step, hand over her heart.
What in the Maker’s name was that, Kate wondered? For a moment, she was so startled, she completely forgot her previous train of thought. It sounded like someone had run face-first into the door. Or perhaps someone was knocking. Did the Fereldens knock before entering a Chantry? How odd.
And there it was again. Kate glanced over her shoulder, but found no one was there to answer it - or to explain what it was all about. Oh well. She needed to go outside anyhow. Might as well answer the Chantry door while she was at it.
It’s like I’m the Maker’s butler, Kate thought. Considering she was already Andraste’s Herald, Kate supposed this would be a lateral career change.
There’s a joke for you, Robert. Even attempting to jest made Kate feel a pang of grief. But she pushed the door open all the same, drawling “Yes?” as she had heard her family’s footman do.
Kate broke off suddenly when she found the bear-soldier standing on the other side of the door. Behind him was a small crowd, and everyone was staring at her.
Here she was, Cullen thought. The Herald herself. And it didn’t seem as though she was expecting an audience.
He let his hammer drop to his side. Cassandra and Leliana had envisioned this writ-posting as a very dramatic thing - Cullen nailing the parchment to the door, the bells ringing - everything was to be done with pomp and grandeur. No one had expected the Herald to burst out of the door a moment later, completely ruining the tableau.
Cullen reached past her and pulled the door shut.
“If you please,” he said.
The woman opened her mouth as if to say something, but then she noticed the writ. She cocked her head as she quickly scanned the lines.
“This is it then?” she asked, turning suddenly to Cullen. It then occurred to Cullen that he’d been unintentionally staring at her while she read.
“This is the Divine’s plan?” the woman pressed. “The one she wrote up before the Conclave?”
“Yes,” Cullen replied.
“Well,” she said. “That does explain why you had so many soldiers at the ready. And in such a small village, too.”
Cullen supposed he should take that as a compliment of sorts. But before he could say anything in reply, a man in a silly-looking sunburst cap and a long cleric’s robe came striding out of the crowd. Roderick, Cullen thought with a groan. Even before the man opened his mouth and began to whine, Cullen was already turning away.
“You can’t do this, commander,” the chancellor said, pointing at the door.
Cullen had long ago learned that the best way to deal with this cleric was to avoid dealing with him at all. Every interaction gave the chancellor a legitimacy he did not deserve.
“And yet, it’s done,” Cullen said, determined to keep this short.
“This will not stand,” the cleric said, his voice rising.
Beside Cullen, the Herald muttered under her breath: “Oh, I don’t know. The writ looks well hung to me.”
Cullen did a double take. The Herald hadn’t actually said that, had she? And surely she hadn’t meant it like that. But the private smile curling her lips seemed to suggest that she did. She looked out into the distance and murmured, “How’s that, Robert?”
Cullen had no idea who Robert was, nor why the Herald was making off-color jokes to people who weren’t there. Even so, Cullen had to bite back a laugh. Of all the things to say in front of the chancellor.
And yet, the writ was rather long.
Cullen smothered a snort. Fortunately, the crowd and Roderick missed the Herald’s words entirely. In Roderick’s case, that wasn’t surprising. The man was too absorbed in himself to notice anyone else.
“This wasn’t how it was supposed to be,” the chancellor said, loudly.
“The world wasn’t supposed to go to the Void, either, Rodrick,” Cullen snapped in reply. To the Herald he added, “Shall we?”
Cullen waved his hammer at the path before them and strode away from the Chantry. The Herald fell in step beside him, and the crowds parted to let them pass. Cullen slanted a glance at her, but she kept her eyes straight ahead. Cullen turned away with a smile on his face.
Well hung. He chuckled. Really.
As they walked along, the people of Haven kept skittering out of their way, looking at the Herald with expressions of reverence and awe. Cullen found their gaping rather annoying, though it didn’t seem to bother the Herald. She strode through the village with her chin lifted high, her shoulders squared, and with a certain sway of her hips - not quite a swagger, but she had a proud, almost sensual walk.
Cullen pushed that thought out of his mind and turned his eyes forward. He scanned the crowd for Cassandra and the others, then spotted Leliana and Josephine a moment later. The spymaster and the ambassador were standing on the small rise overlooking the path to the tavern. Cassandra was nowhere in sight.
“My!” Leliana said, noting the Herald’s arrival. “Someone cleans up well.”
Cullen turned just in time to see the Herald smile shyly and tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. She glanced up through her lashes, her freckled cheeks tinged with a blush. Cullen cleared his throat and turned quickly away.
First Morris had said that the mage was pretty. Now Leliana had admired the Herald in her new clothes. Cullen, however, thought it best to avoid such observations. For yes, the mage was pretty and yes, she cleaned up well. But Cullen had been through this exercise in self-composure many times before. So instead of considering the mage, Cullen considered their vantage point. He and the others stood where the stairs up to the Chantry formed a stage of sorts. Leliana and Josephine looked quite pleased to be part of the production. They were speaking over one another, both nodding in approval at the Herald’s clothing. The Herald, for her part, stood very still as the other women fussed about her.
“You should have used the Orlesian rouge,” Cullen heard Leliana saying.
She doesn’t need it, Cullen thought to himself. She looked perfectly fine as she was. Paint could not improve that smooth skin.
Cullen stopped his thoughts with a frown.
That observation served no purpose, he told himself. He imagined taking the useless piece of information out of his head and setting it aside in the snow. Then Cullen turned his eyes forward and waited for the ceremony to begin.
Kate wondered how long this announcement was going to take. There was a palpable excitement in the air - well, sort of. Everyone looked expectant, but also grim. Kate could hardly blame them. She felt much the same. It didn’t help that Leliana and the dark-haired ambassador - Kate had not caught the woman’s name - were still fussing over her as if she were a mannequin in a dress shop.
Leliana ushered Kate to stand directly by the bear-soldier - nearly shoulder to shoulder. The man took a large step to the side the moment Leliana had her back turned, Kate noticed. Kate wasn’t sure if that was just because he didn’t like to be crowded, or if he was a bit leery of standing so close to a Fade-touched mage. Well, she thought, it wouldn’t be the first time she’d been snubbed by a handsome man.
Wait. Handsome? Kate glanced at the bear-soldier once again.
Yes, ‘handsome’ was accurate, she realized. And he didn’t look much like a bear anymore, not all cleaned up like that. The man’s armor was polished, his fur mantle looked clean and soft. He’d washed and combed his hair and gold curls brushed the nape of his neck. Standing this close to him, Kate also noticed that the man had a scar on his upper lip. A line slashed upward through his stubble and nearly to his cheek. Far from marring his looks, the scar just drew attention to his mouth. He had nice eyes, Kate thought. They were brown and kind, in spite of the dark circles under them.
Just then, the man looked over at her. Kate flushed at once.
Maker, she didn’t usually go about staring at people like that. Her confusion and grief had clearly upset her manners.
Kate gave the man a half-smile, then turned her head back to the view. She hoped that her face had not turned completely red. Kate squared her shoulders and tried to look as if she belonged up here before the crowd.
Just then, the Chantry bells began to ring. On cue, Cassandra appeared at the far end of the village. Every soldier in the crowd straightened a little as the Seeker passed. Kate straightened as well. Cassandra came marching up the steps, a smug expression on her face. The setting sun cast the scene in a rosy light, and then, as Cassandra joined them on the ridge, several banners unfurled in various places around the camp. Upon each banner was the symbol of a single flaming eye. It seemed to Kate that there were now several one-eyed giants glaring down into the village. Leliana then stepped forward and released two ravens into the air. The birds flew off in opposite directions, cawing loud enough to drown out the Chantry bells.
Kate bit the inside of her lip. She was sure this was all meant to be very grand, but the whole thing made her want to laugh. Kate glanced over her shoulder, only to find that the bear-soldier wore a similarly bemused expression. He gave Kate a look as if to say ‘Ravens? Really?’
Kate bit back a grin, and they both turned their eyes forward.
For a moment, Kate stood there with the others - the Seeker, the spymaster, the bear-soldier, and the ambassador. She gazed out at all the people, spotting a few faces in the crowd that she recognized: Varric Tethras, for one, and there was Coll, sitting in the window of the tavern, and Lysette standing right beside her. Kate had to suppress the urge to wave at them.
Then the bells of the Chantry stopped ringing and silence fell. A few murmurs rippled through the crowd. And then Kate realized Cassandra was gesturing at her.
“Go on,” Cassandra whispered.
“What?” Kate whispered back, unsure of what the woman meant. “Go on?”
“Your speech,” Cassandra told her. “It’s time for your speech.”
Kate’s mouth dropped open.
She nearly shrieked aloud, but caught herself just in time. Instead, Kate hissed the words so loudly that surely some of the people in the front row heard her. She stared at the Seeker, eyes wide.
“I’m supposed to make a speech?”
“Cassandra didn’t tell you?” Leliana whispered from behind.
“Yes,” Cassandra said just as Kate hissed, “No!”
“I told you we planned to announce the Inquisition,” Cassandra told Kate, her voice low and urgent.
”‘We’ is not me,” Kate whispered furiously. “‘Announce’ is not a speech.”
“I am no good at speeches,” Cassandra replied.
“She’s terrible,” Leliana agreed. “Besides, they want the Herald of Andraste.”
“Go on,” the dark-haired ambassador whispered. “Say something.”
“Say anything,” the bear-soldier muttered behind Kate.
Kate shot him a glance, but the man was looking straight ahead at the crowds. Kate turned her attention back to the crowds, too.
It’s alright, Kate, she told herself. All you need to do is…give a speech.
As soon as she thought this, Kate relaxed a little. Well, that was far easier than fighting demons and shutting a tear in the Veil. Kate had taken classes in rhetoric, after all. She’d given lectures and delivered papers, engaged in academic debates - even her parent’s parties had given her ample opportunities for toasts and impromptu announcements of all sorts. Oddly enough, Kate felt far more comfortable speaking to a crowd of strangers than she did chatting with handsome soldiers and fashionable spymasters.
By the time Kate took her first step forward, she had a rough outline in mind. With the second step, she settled on an opening line. When she came to a halt in front of the crowd, Kate took a breath to calm herself.
And project your voice for the people in the back, Kate thought, imagining the advice her mother would have given her. The crowd had begun to murmur at the delay, but now they went quiet as Kate lifted her chin.
Well, this was going to be awkward, Cullen thought, frowning. This was why he found formal ceremonies so absurd. Inevitably, something went wrong. It would be far better to keep things casual, but no, the others had insisted upon a ‘proper’ announcement. And then it seemed that they’d left the announcing part up to the Herald - and without warning, too.
While Cullen felt badly for the woman, he felt grateful that it wasn’t him standing up there. He could address his troops well enough, but public speaking was something else entirely. Even as Cullen thought that, the Herald took a hesitant step forward. Her left hand opened and closed nervously. Cullen grimaced in anticipation of the mess that was sure to ensue. He just hoped the woman managed not to stammer.
“People of Haven.“
Cullen straightened at once. That was not stammering. The mage spoke with enough authority to make everyone in town come snapping to attention.
“People of Haven,” she said again, in that same clear, ringing voice. “This day marks an end. But it also marks a new beginning. Today, we mourn the end of Divine Justina. We mourn the Conclave, which we hoped would bring peace. We mourn the loss of many others, too - mages, templars, friends…”
Here, the mage swallowed and trailed off. For a moment, Cullen feared she would lose her composure, but she got herself under control so quickly, he was left wondering if it had all been for dramatic effect.
“I don’t need to tell you what we lost,” the Herald went on, her voice hardening and growing cold as though it had been flash-frozen. “You know the names of the dead better than I. You feel the loss of the Divine as deeply as any priest in the Grand Cathedral. You know that the world was already balanced on the edge of chaos. And you know that what has happened here has tipped that balance.
“The Divine had a plan,” she told the crowd, “It was a plan she hoped never to use. That plan was the Inquisition. Now, many of you…”
The mage paused here, for a low rumble went through the crowd at the mention of the word ‘Inquisition.’
“Many of you,” the Herald began again, “have heard of the previous Inquisition. If you’re anything like me, that name doesn’t inspire much confidence. But the Divine considered this. She wanted the Inquisition to begin anew. She wanted us to band together - mage and templar, layman and priestess - and try to set the world right.”
Reasonably accurate, Cullen thought, nodding slightly to himself. There was a bit more to it than that, but she’d gotten the gist of it well enough.
“The Divine planned to use the Inquisition to address the mage-templar conflict,” the Herald continued, “but we face much more. We face a tear in the Veil. We face demons and rifts. Most of all, we face the challenge of finding out who is behind this, and bringing them to justice.
“Today, we mourn our losses. But tomorrow, we will go forward, ready to begin again. We will carry out the Divine’s wishes. We will see our friends avenged. But most of all, we will do this together. As of this moment, we are now the Inquisition.”
The Herald ended there, and her words seemed to echo in the lightly-falling snow. Cullen let out a breath he had not realized he was holding.
Well then, he thought, blinking. That was…
Maker’s breath, that was unexpected. Simple, to the point, even inspiring. Not bad for a speech. Not bad at all. The Herald now stood tall in the setting sun, her bearing proud as any knight-commander. In that light, Cullen found her quite attractive.
Cullen cleared his throat. Maker’s breath, his mind was wandering today. He again sloughed off that unwanted observation, and mentally kicked it aside for good measure.
Well, Kate thought, gazing out at the silent crowd. That was over. It wasn’t perfect, but for off-the-cuff it had been pretty good.
And now what, Kate wondered? Was the crowd supposed to clap? Was there another banner that would be unfurled? Maybe they should have one with the word ‘Inquisition!’ painted upon it, streaming across the sky. It would go well with the ravens. Kate stifled a nervous laugh. This was anticlimactic, really. But at least it was done.
Kate turned her head, ready to ask the others what happened next. But when she did so, Kate saw the bear-soldier was looking at her in a odd way. Before Kate could analyze his expression, someone spoke loudly from the middle of the now-silent crowd.
“Is it true that Andraste saved you?” a voice called out. “Did she speak to you? Did she tell you the Maker’s plans for us?”
Eesh, Kate thought with an inward groan. It seemed the people of Haven were going for the hard questions first. Behind her, Kate heard Leliana whisper:
“Say yes. They expect it.”
Kate gritted her teeth. Yes, they expected her to be their Herald, but Kate refused to lie. She couldn’t figure out who had spoken, so when she answered, she addressed the crowd as a whole.
“I was certainly saved,” Kate replied, allowing her voice to carry to the people in the back. “Whether by Andraste’s hand or the Maker’s will or just dumb luck, I honestly don’t know. I don’t remember much of what happened up there.”
A murmur of disappointment went through the crowd. Kate could almost feel Leliana scowling behind her.
“I make no claims to holiness,” Kate went on. “And I certainly didn’t ask for this.”
Here, Kate held up her hand, allowing it to spark and shimmer. The people of Haven gave out a collective gasp at the sight.
“Good,” Leliana whispered behind Kate, her voice full of approval. “Very good. That’s what they want to see.”
“I didn’t ask for this mark,” Kate went on, letting her hand drop. “I don’t know how it came to be there, or what magic created it. But I know this: We can use the mark to close the rifts and fight the demons. And I promise to use it as best I am able.” She paused, then added, “I, and the Inquisition, will do whatever is in our power to set this right.”
A pause met this promise, and then someone began to clap - it was Varric, Kate realized a moment later. Then Coll started whistling from the back. Lysette began cheering, too, and soon a roar went up from the crowd. Kate let out a sigh of relief.
Alright, she thought. That was a bit more like the reaction she had expected.
“There now,” Kate heard the bear-soldier mutter dryly. “I suppose that will do.”
Kate chuckled at his words. Beside her, the dark-haired ambassador sputtered.
“Do?” she nearly cried. “What do you mean? That was quite astonishing.”
Kate was about to point out that the man had been joking, but Leliana cut her off with a tap to Kate’s shoulder.
“Quickly,” the spymaster said. “Let us not ruin it by lingering.”
“Hear, hear,” the bear-soldier said. “Retreat now before they start firing off more questions.”
Kate nodded her agreement. And while the crowd continued to cheer, Kate and the others escaped to the Chantry.