Erratic Diaries

Part 2, Chapter 14 of Daughters of Andraste

20th of Firstfall, 9:41 Dragon

Inquisitor’s Log (no, too pretentious)

Kate’s Diary (Or journal, I suppose. Never understood the difference between a diary and a journal, actually.)

Truth be told, I’m a very erratic diarist.

Every time Wintermarch rolls around, I resolve to Keep a Journal This Year! - capitals and emphasis and everything. And so I do – for about a week. Then I forget to reach for my diary one night and a single day slips out of the record. I comfort myself, saying ‘That’s alright. I’ll catch up on things tomorrow.’ But then another day is forgotten, and another and another. By the time I reach my birthday on Wintersend, my ‘diary’ consists of nothing more than pages upon pages of to-do lists. It continues in this vein throughout the year.

The only exception is when I find myself in low spirits. On those miserable occasions, I crack open my diary to scribble down a novel’s worth of worries and woes. The exposition becomes drearily self-depreciating. My writing becomes illegible from all the tears and ink running together. But I never bother to write about my return to good humor. By the time I’m feeling better, I’m back to list-making. Most unhelpful for future moments of despair, I can tell you that. It’s like I leave myself an account of how I fell into the sea, but no account of how I swam back to shore. If someone were to read those scribblings, they would think me some moody creature who hibernated from one despairing rage to the next.

Of course, no one would ever actually read my journals. First of all, I don’t think anyone cares enough to, and secondly, I’ve been told that my handwriting is quite illegible. But in the off-chance that someone is prone to snooping, I shall bespell this notebook with a shielding charm. A useful trick, that. Coll and I used to sneak banned books past the templars in this way. Any tome thus enchanted will appear as blank ledger to anyone but the person who knows the counterspell and the password.

There now. The spell is cast. I can journal in peace. And look at that! A page filled with a rambling introduction and I haven’t even begun to record the day’s events! No wonder I give up on diaries so easily. I begin with too much and taper off to nothing.

Right then, to begin properly: Today marks the first day of our journey to Crestwood, and I am terrified. No, that’s putting it too strongly. Or not strongly enough? Rather, I find I am uneasy. Just this morning, I was in Skyhold.

It was easy to be Inquisitor in Skyhold.

There, I acted as lady of the manor. There, I planned for a tavern opening, oversaw building projects, approved the meal schedule, signed my name to letters. My days consisted of walls, lists, and aesthetic questions. Very familiar, all of it. I’d been groomed for such tasks since childhood. Even after I was went to the Circle, Lydia’s not-so-secret hope was that I would one day usurp the First Enchanter and bring a more Libertarian rule to Ostwick. (Maker rest her ambitious soul. I had neither the allies nor the inclination for such a coup.)

But now I am out in the field again. And as we walked away from Skyhold, I could not help but remember our walk to Skyhold, and what necessitated it. I recalled the attack on Haven, all the people lost there. I remembered the Conclave and and that horrible business at Redcliffe. Most upsetting memories.

And now that I’m out in the wilds again, I remember how very wild it can get out here. I find myself fearful of the challenges to come. And if Hawke does not have information that can help us…

No, I can’t second-guess our mission already. We’ve scarcely begun! And I need to stop rambling, or I’ll never record the events of the day. (This is a diary, after all, not a Chantry confessional booth.)

Let me see. Where did we begin? Oh yes! I began the day bleary-eyed and downcast. The tavern debacle had me feeling very out of sorts, but after speaking with Cullen in the barns, I felt much better. I still can’t seem to set aside my attraction to him, but that is another problem. It seems so long ago that Cullen and I spoke, but that was just this morning. Funny how travel can stretch a day out so long.

I then took my leave of Robert and Coll in the Skyhold courtyard - or rather, I got crushed in a three-person embrace between Robert and Coll as all of Skyhold looked on. Cullen, in particular, seemed rather taken aback by the emotional nature of the goodbye. I started crying, I’m sorry to say. Robert and Coll are such dear friends, and I miss them already. But then I dried my tears and joined Cullen at the head of the company. Together, we led everyone out into the snowy mountains. It was a grand scene: banners flying, people cheering, trumpets blaring. I think Josephine had something to do with the fanfare. Cullen shook his head and snorted as we crossed the drawbridge.

From there, our path turned east. We could not ride the horses today, on account of the deep snow. (So Cullen got out of that for one day, at least.) The horses wore funny little snow-shoes, and all the bipeds wore tall boots. Varric had a time of it, poor fellow. ‘Too many long legs,’ he said. He’s been sullen all day.

As for the weather, it was both brilliant and forbidding. There is a fierce beauty in the mountains. It’s somewhat like the Fade. It’s a world of wonders and dangers that people were not quite made for. Even the air felt different up here: it seemed to scour my lungs rather than fill them. And the wind! We’d be walking along, and then whoosh! - a gust would come ripping up the mountainside. Our company managed to stay grounded, but the snow did not. Whole drifts went scuffing off the into the sky, trailing out over the peaks in glimmering white-and-rainbow banners. A most majestic heraldry! I wish I could have captured the scene somehow - put it in a painting and carried it with me always.

Of course, walking through said landscape was rather a challenge. I kept losing my footing in the snow, and the sky was so bright a blue that I spent the whole time squinting. I’m sure my face has gotten scrunched up into an expression of perpetual confusion.

I didn’t look particularly Inquisitor-like, I fear. If anyone were to see our company trudging along, they would not have guessed that Cullen was the leader of the Inquisition, not I. And little wonder! Cullen looked the part, with the sun glinting on his armor and his hair all golden and curling in the wind. He looked so handsome that I just wanted to pounce on him and tackle him into the snows

We reached our camp as the sun began to set. Cullen elected for us all to stay in a Tevinter watchtower, the better to seek shelter from the alpine winds. It is quite –

Or no, I just heard Dorian say that this was not a watchtower, but an astronomical observatory. ‘Or perhaps a ritual temple’ he added. Goodness, I hope no one was sacrificed here. How beastly that would be!

Whatever the ruin’s past purpose, it certainly looks imposing. The top of this peak is flat - as if sheered off with an axe - and a cobble-stone courtyard has been laid out upon the ground. This courtyard is ringed by a waist-high wall, and the watchtower was plunked down in the center of it all. Everyone has packed their sleeping rolls into the lower room, carpeting the space with bedrolls. A drafty tower shambles up from the lower bit. The whole structure is made in the Tevene style: grey stone capped with rusted iron crenellation. It looks like an open jaw: as if a bloody-toothed wolf was howling at the moon.

But ignoring the dreariness of our temporary shelter, the views up here are amazing! We seem to be standing on the top of the world. It’s as if we’ve entered a land of pure ether. As I’ve been journaling here in the courtyard (for so long! My hand is cramping), the sky has darkened to a lovely coral-pink. The clouds have turned lilac-gray. To the north and west stretch the endless mountains: a sea of choppy, snow-peaked waves. But off to the east, there lies a darkness that Cullen tells me is the Ferelden forests. You can’t see trees from up here, just a general softness, like moss. It makes me think –

Wait! Cullen! Lyrium protocols! I almost forgot!

Commander’s Log

20th of Firstfall, 1900 hours

Reached Grimmfall Watchtower at around 1700 hours.

No major injuries or difficulties along the trail. Minor injuries include wind-chapped faces and a few blistered feet. Elfroot poultices have been rationed to those affected.

Note to self: Issue warnings prior to missions regarding the proper breaking in of boots. Mages, in particular, prove unfamiliar with the basics of travel-appropriate apparel. Bad ASS Captain Rion was complaining about everything about the quality of his company’s gear in comparison with that of ‘the templars’ (Capt. Barris, Capt. Lysette, myself). When I did not offer ‘proper’ sympathy, he directed his complaints to the Inquisitor. She dealt with it more kindly than I would have She has handled it.

Camp settled for the night. I must address the question of the lyrium protocols soon. Kate The Inquisitor approached me regarding them and I fear I did not respond

I have a plan.

Took elfroot pellets as directed. (Orally.)

21th of Firstfall

The hilltop lies shrouded in eerie fog. Dawn must be rising somewhere in the east, but I can’t see the sun. Everything is mist and cloud from here. Quite a different scene than yesterday.

Everyone else is still sleeping, but I woke with a start. I didn’t want to dwell on the nightmares, so I came out here to the edge of the courtyard, to sit alone and think. Right now, I’m standing by Flame. My mare seems pleased by the company. Plucky is here as well, perched on the wall beside me.

… Well that was odd. Plucky just glared at me accusingly and flapped away. What was that about, I wonder? It almost looked as if she’d tried to read my writing, then got offended when she couldn’t. Does that shielding spell work on ravens? More to the point, why am I ascribing motivation to a bird?

But back to my purpose: I did not finish my diary entry yesterday. Not one day in and already I’m falling behind! But now I hesitate to commit last night’s memory to a journal. But who else do I have to talk to? I suppose I might as well write it out and think on it. You see, I completed the lyrium protocols on Cullen.

They did not quite go as I’d planned.

It wasn’t so bad. It was fine. Professional, even. Certainly better than the last time we did this, where it was awkward and I was awkward and the whole thing felt like a sensual mess. But this time –

Let me back up. When I last set down my journal, I went to go find Cullen. I pulled him aside, and he became apprehensive. Perhaps he’d already anticipated my purpose? I reminded him about the lyrium protocols, and then he said, “Ah.”

Just “ah.” He has this way of saying it - blank as an empty canvas and yet full of meaning all at once.

I had no idea what to say in return, so of course I said something very stupid. I said: “Lucky you!” (trying to make a joke of it) “Coll gave me some pointers and so now I can give you a proper lyrium protocol without the full-body groping!”

In retrospect, I should not have used the work ‘groping.’ Cullen went quite pale.

“What I mean to say,” I clarified, “Is that all I need to do is hold your hand. Your bare hand, of course. For about a minute. Or maybe five minutes. We’ll just hold hands for about five minutes. Because of the protocols. Coll told me to!”

Yes, ‘Coll told me to.’ That’s what I said. That’s what came out of my mouth. The truth is, Coll told me to do something quite different, but of course I did not tell Cullen this. My thoughts might have been evident in my face however, for my cheeks felt quite hot.

Cullen, for his part, said nothing. He turned and walked away. Without even looking back at me! Or saying anything! I felt – A lot of things, really. Angry, for one. And quite embarrassed. I had half a mind to chase after Cullen, grab the man by the hand and do a full-body lyrium protocol on him right then and there in the courtyard! It would have served him right, too. It isn’t my idea to keep this whole thing a secret!

But of course I didn’t do anything like that. I just stood there, staring. Then I caught myself. I decided to brush the whole thing off. (The fact that several scouts were looking at me with curiosity helped with that decision.)

So I went and made myself useful. I joined the scouts in their preparation of dinner. (Jacket potatoes! Maker bless the horse that they rode in on!)

Talking with the scouts was a little awkward at first. It’s one thing to nod to people in passing while wandering the halls at Skyhold. It’s another to sit around a campfire while everyone keeps glancing nervously at my left hand. But I did what I could. I pretended that it was the first day of class and I was the instructor. I began by asking everyone what their name was and where they were from and then asked follow-up questions from there. It worked reasonably well. Most people are desperate to have someone show an interest in them, from apprentices on up to marchionesses. Before long, we were talking more comfortably (All except Rion. He may be a very talented mage, but I remember him from back before he escaped the Ostwick Circle. He was insufferably boastful back then and he’s still boastful now.)

While we talked, the sky got darker and darker around us. Soon dinner was ready, and the courtyard flooded with people (only thirty-one of us, but it’s a small courtyard). I took my cooling potato over to the courtyard wall for a bit of quiet. Varric was over there as well, but I left him alone. He seemed to be in a pensive mood.

But then, just as I went to stuff a bite of potato into my mouth, Cullen suddenly appeared right beside me! As if he’d never left! I nearly choked. I probably looked like a squirrel for a moment there, my cheeks all puffed up with food and my eyes wide in surprise. Or maybe I looked annoyed, because Cullen leaned over and whispered in my ear: “I’m sorry about earlier. I had to do… things.”

He didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t pry. For a few minutes, it was rather tense. We just stood there, eating. But then Dorian came and joined us for a time, and then Bull wandered over as well. Fairly soon we were all joking about something or other - I can’t recall what. Then the mood began to shift again. Dorian went indoors, following Ser Barris. Iron Bull grunted and followed after them both. The scouts began to trail indoors, one by one, and then Varric left.

Then it was just Cullen and I, out there under a full sky of stars. It was a remarkable view. No, more than remarkable.

It was stunning. The silent world lay below; a glimmering velvet darkness spanned above us. It was sacred somehow: like looking into the face of a goddess. That must be why the Avaar worship the Lady of the Skies. They are closest to her, the people of the mountains. They know her likeness better than everyone. And as I stood there, staring up at this incredible display, Cullen turned to me and said: “So, um… protocols?”

It was rather disorienting, really. Beautiful skies above me, thrumming male voice in my ear. I flushed hot, in spite the rapidly dropping temperature. When I said, “Oh, yes, quite” I’m sure my voice rose an octave. Then Cullen said, somewhat loudly:

“Will you join me at the requisitions table, Inquisitor?”

Coll has told me that I am very bad at ‘acting casual.’ I never understood what she meant. Now I do. Cullen was clearly ‘acting casual,’ and failing miserably. Still, I followed him over to the requisitions table. Cullen dismissed the scout who was standing there on duty, and then we were alone.

Well, mostly alone. There were still a few scouts over by the campfire in the courtyard, but otherwise, it was just us, the requisition table, a few candles, and the stars. Cullen handed me a warm blanket - which I thought quite kind - and said:

“Here’s my thinking.” (Again with his voice all deep and low). “I’ve set myself for first watch. Each night, we can stand side-by-side. If we act as though we’re doing work over here, and if we keep our arms hidden in the folds of our cloaks…”

Cullen held his hand out to his side - just slightly, you understand. But his hand was bare, and a shiver went through me. I realized what he was on about. And it made me think…

Well, that doesn’t matter. I stepped around to the other side of him (for I couldn’t use my left hand), tugged my glove off, and took his left hand in my right.

I swear all the stars in the sky lit up inside of me. I was overcome by the sensation of it. His hand was so soft! But so calloused and rough! So warm! But it was so cold outside, that my face was freezing off! Maker how I want to hold all of him! And through it all, I felt an internal muffled squealing, as if all my nerves were crying ‘Aaaaaaaah!’

I felt as if I were nineteen again, startled by the revelation of my very first kiss. And yet I was only holding his hand! Several minutes passed and I have no recollection of them. The next thing I knew, Cullen began to pull his hand away, saying, ‘So that’s it then?’ To my mortification, I had to say, ‘Oh my Maker, no! Sorry! I hadn’t yet begun.’

I didn’t explain why I hadn’t begun. I could think of no excuse. So I just started in on the protocols - too roughly, perhaps, for Cullen gasped and then seemed not to draw breath again until I was done.

It took about three minutes, and no one noticed that the commander and the Inquisitor were holding hands beneath their cloaks in all that while. (Or blanket, in my case.) Of course, we were in near darkness with only a few candles for light, and it probably looked like we were hunched over the table to check the papers. But still, it was laughably easy to maintain the ruse.

Frustratingly easy, really.

When I’d finished, I gave Cullen’s hand a light squeeze, and said, “You seem unchanged since yesterday.” Cullen snatched his hand away, as if I’d caught fire. Feeling a bit foolish now, I added, “It worked rather well, hiding in plain sight like that.” Cullen nodded and said, “I’m good at running operations.”

I came crashing back down to earth and splattered all over the hillside. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. I just felt… I don’t know. I know the purpose was to get this done, and I know that we agreed to keep this secret, but for Cullen to treat it like some mere assignment? It made me so angry

No, that is unfair. Cullen is struggling. He is trying to do what is right, and things are complicated for him. But complications for Cullen have become complications for me. Because in spite of my resolutions to the contrary, in spite of what I promised myself that night at the tavern, in spite of the fact that love and romance are nonsense so far as mages are concerned, I wanted…

Bah! It’s silly to want anything. Embarrassing, too. A handsome man held my hand for the sake of a medical procedure, and I fell all to pieces! (Though to be fair, Cullen is not just handsome. He is devastatingly handsome. I am rather surprised I can speak to him without stammering. I often feel I’m about to.) I only wish –

Ack! And there’s Bull, poking his horns around the corner to say I’m late for training. I can’t believe it’s past sunrise already. Didn’t even notice. Alright, recording one last thought before I rush off to train with Bull and the ASS:

I left Cullen there at the requisition table - rather abruptly, I fear. But when I reached the door to the tower, I looked back. Cullen stood there against the stars, his face glowing in a sliver of candlelight. The glittering sky stretching over him like a halo, and I thought:

He’s a star. And then: I want make a constellation with him.

I’m not quite sure what I meant by that. To burn with him in his bedroll in the heavens? To float forever in that deep, holy sky? The stars were so perfect last night - a pefect scene to charm lovers or sweethearts. But there were no lovers or sweethearts. There were only lyrium protocols.

Such a waste. And I –

Bother, Bull isn’t going to let me finish that thought. Probably for the best. This infatuation of mine is already getting–

Yes, yes, Bull. On my way.

21th of Firstfall, 1900 hours

Reached Orzammar Gate. Thaig in lockdown due to the mage-templar war. Cannot secure supplies, nor are the dwarves willing to trade. Josephine’s textiles are thus useless. Now we shall have to carry these goods with us all the way to Ferelden. (Don’t know why I let her talk me into taking this lot of silks and velvets in the first place.)

I now realize that in comparison with other dwarves, Varric is a joy.

Roads abysmal. Muddy switchbacks. Lots of slipping and falling all the way down the to the border. Did not ride the horses - hard enough to keep them on the path. Attacked by bandits by way of Ferelden welcome. Dispatched the brigands in minutes, but it was still annoying. One scout injured. He’s being seen to by the healers in the Sexy ASS unit, (much to his delight.)

Kate confused that anyone would attack a company so well armed. She doesn’t seem to understand how desperate some criminals can be. Maker pray she never does

Realized that we’re taking Kate into great danger in Crestwood. Always unnerving to stand by as she risks herself

Rotten weather. Campsite is soaking wet and the rain is growing worse. No proper shelter available. You’d think the merchants would build a better campsite to encourage trade, but no. I suppose they thought the lyrium would bring people here regardless of lodgings.

Speaking of lyrium, I’m finding it difficult to ignore the lyrium vials that the mages and templars brought with them. In Skyhold, I stayed away from the stores, but here it’s stashed in the next pack over. I struggle to

Speaking of lyrium, I have scheduled the protocols for first watch. Hoping to get some work done tonight, rather than standing there like a fool while Kate

The lyrium protocols were shorter last time, but just as stimulating

I’m not sure how to describe

I’m not sure if I should describe

Will take two elfroot pellets tonight. I feel a headache coming on.

I did it! HA- HA! Take that Enchanter Timothy! You said no one could set a ward in the air, but…

Alright, you can’t set a ward in the air, but if you place wards on trees and standing stones, one can create a web of wards over a space that effectively works as a repellant shield and I managed to do it! I cast an Umbrella Spell!

That’s what I’m going to call it anyhow. I’ll have to work out a patent for it. I tried to explain it to Cullen, but got a little too technical, I fear. All he cared about was that I managed to cast a spell that kept the rain off of a patch of ground. The mages were impressed, at least. We can now pitch our tents –

Ran out of ink there! Can’t believe I used a whole bottle already. Good thing I brought four. And then Charter needed to speak to me. And Dorian and I got into a discussion about how best to reinforce the umbrella spell so that it lasts through the night. I’ll start teaching it to the other mages, too. It’s already helped make the camp more livable. Good thing, too! Everyone was feeling low and sour today. Bandit attack and bad roads and then we ended up camping in a puddle. The puddles aren’t gone, actually. Ella and her crew are working on draining the water from our tents. I’d help them, but I’ve got lyrium protocols in a minute. (!!!)

Lyrium protocols completed for the night. Everyone tucked in early, so it was easy for Cullen and me to slip away. We wandered down the road a ways, under the auspices of ‘scouting the trail.’ I thought the rain and gloom might make the protocols less cozy. No such luck. Cullen and I ended up looking out over a ravine with a rather lovely (if drizzly) view of the Ferelden forests ahead.

Cullen spent the whole time reading some report and ignoring me entirely. Efficient of him, I suppose, to multitask like that. Me, I found it maddening. For there we were, with our fingers intertwined, and Cullen with droplets of rain in his curling hair and rain streaming down his lips and

I think I’m losing my mind. Or my objectivity. Or both. It’s probably the rain. I should go to bed.

Oh, and the date is still 21th Firstfall. - in the evening, this time. Maker, I’m all over the place tonight.

22nd Firstfall. Early. (Too early.)

Nightmares again. Bother.

I might as well write it down, as I swear I’ve had this dream before. I dreamt I was trapped in a winding tower, and floodwaters swiftly filled the building. I kept running up spiral staircases, closing doors to try and slow the tide. In the end, I was trapped in a room, with icy waters up to my chin. Then the water rose over my head and I was drowning. (What a memory!) I groped at the wall, at the ceiling, certain I was done for. Then I found a window. With a sudden push and burst I was falling - tumbling out into nothing.

Actually, it wasn’t nothing. I fell into this green glowing mass that seemed to have no end. (Little wonder what inspired that.) Then there was ground below me, rushing toward me. I died when I landed, and woke shaking. My handwriting shows it. This is more illegible than usual.

I suppose it comes of worrying myself to sleep. Last night, I lay in bed thinking about Cullen about things. I thought about Corypheus, and Keran’s death - how sudden it was, how cruel. I thought about Haven and all those village huts on fire. I thought again about what happened at Redcliffe Castle: that Voidish future, and all the many ways things could go wrong if I fail.

It’s surprising my nightmare was so mild, come to think of it. In comparison to what I’ve lived, a flood and a tower is nothing.

So here I am, journaling in the early morning. It’s cold comfort, sitting alone against a tree trunk with only a mage light for company. At least it stopped raining. From what little I can see of the forest, we’re blanketed in fog. Ferelden mornings announce themselves ominously, I find.

But while the nightmares have fled, the worries have not. Neither have the expectations. I can’t stop thinking about all that I must do. And spending time with the troops reminds me of all the people counting on me to do it. I feel quite alone, high on the mountain peak of Inquisition leadership. I’m up at the top with no one to guide me. Oh, I have advisors. (Quite a handsome one along for the journey)

I have advisors, but no mentor. I have no one to tell me what I ought to do. The Divine is gone, Lydia died, and I’ve long lacked a parental influence. I feel like an orphan - an orphan playing at Inquisitor. If only –

Maker’s sake! Bull snuck up on me and gave me a scare. Training time already? Bull said he’d give me a moment to ‘clean up’ (I guess I look awful? Thanks a lot, Bull.)

Better go wash my face, not that my sparring partners care.

My sparring partner was Cullen.

Thank the Maker that Bull suggested I clean up first. Bull surprised me with a demonstration – one in which I was expected to demonstrate. Wish I’d had more warning. But I think I faked my way through that encounter. Bull and Cullen wanted to train the company in some kind of shielding technique that they’ll be using during the siege. They had me throw some fire and ice around, then showed the ASSes how to guard against that.

I wonder if they chose me to demonstrate because my magic is too weak to do much damage?

And that is another thing that has me worried: I still cannot cast properly. Not like I used to, I mean. And what kind of mage am I if I can’t draw energy from the Fade? No mage at all, that’s what. It’s bad enough to be marked by magic, but far worse when said magic has no power! I’ve tried everything I can think of, but this mark on my hand seems to push all ambient energies away. I can cast runes and barriers, I find - I’m getting very good at the barriers. But while those are useful, the whole point of all my training was to be more flexible than this. I suppose I could try…

No, better not. That would be unwise. I wish Solas was here to advise.

But really, the weakness of my magic is just a symptom of the further disease. The truth is, I’m completely out of my element here, and I fear everyone knows it. I ought to be like ice, but instead I’m all water. I ought to be resolved and strong, but instead I’m weak and fluid and doubtful. I ought to be one thing, but I fear I’m always something else.

That doesn’t even make sense. It’s a warring sort of feeling inside of me. I can’t seem to describe it. But it’s like I want to be one way, yet I’m always the other way - whatever the ‘other’ happens to be. A part of me takes pride in my uniqueness and my magic. But then the next moment, my eyes fill with tears and I feel cut off from everyone. And why did the Maker make me like this, I have to ask? Such conflicting impulses make it very hard to get anything done. And I very much need to get things done. Incredible things. Impossible things…

Oh for the Maker’s sake. This is no good. Look at this: I’m getting all maudlin and mournful, just like I swore I wouldn’t. I’m stopping now, before this gets out of hand.

At least we get to ride today. Ought to be a nice change of pace. Better go saddle up.

22nd Firstfall, 1900 hours

It is remarkable how quickly we travelled by horseback. Much faster than on foot. Unfortunately, my ass is numb in ways I did not think were possible. And I do mean my bottom, not the ASS units.

Though the ASS units were a pain in the rear, too. Or rather, Rion is a pain in the rear. I should have noticed his snide attitude earlier, but it did not reveal itself in training. The man seems incapable of showing respect to anyone who is not a mage. Understandable, I suppose, but also unacceptable. He has three non-mages in his team, and he must learn to work with them. One more infraction and I’m putting him on probation.

On the other hand, Sexy ASS Captain Ella has proved a most competent leader. It is an odd thing to consider, but Ella was once interred at Kirkwall. I was her guard her jailer. Now she is one of my captains, as trusted as Rylen or Ruvena. Such strange alliances the Inquisition has brought. Like Kate, who is now so close

so respected

Like the Inquisitor, who taught me how to ride today. A horse, I mean, not

This morning, Kate came up to me and said it was time for me to learn how to ride. I confess that my first reaction was a quickened pulse

We rode from the Orzammar Gates to the northeast corner of Lake Calenhad. Didn’t make it all the way to West Hill, as I don’t want to camp within sight of Kinloch Hold wanted to take advantage of the protected campsite at Feller’s Hill.

I set up the requisition table on the banks of the lake, so what when that when Kate and I do the lyrium protocols tonight, she’ll have a pretty view

Not that I intend

Not that a view matters

Elfroot pellet, etc.

23rd Firstfall, early morning

I completely forgot to finish my journal yesterday. So long as I’m up early (nightmares again) I might as well get caught up:

Lyrium protocols are – progressing? They are getting done. That’s what I can say about them. Last night, Cullen and I were standing on the banks of Lake Calenhad, and it was a very lovely view. Not as pretty as the stars, but still very nice. (And on a side note, I find it strange that this is the same lake that I keep travelling over and around. It seems completely different on this shore - sort of lonely and melancholy out here. Though that may have been Cullen. He seemed pensive yesterday. He kept looking out at the rain on the waters and didn’t seem to notice me at all.)

Anyhow, there we were, finishing up the protocols, and I went and stuck my foot in my mouth. Cullen said something like, ‘Well that’s done’ or he sighed in relief. It was something like that. He seemed quite glad to be done with the thing.

I felt stung. I told him that if he’d just tell everyone he’d quit lyrium, there’d be no reason for us to sneak around all nefarious-like. (I hate all this secrecy. It reminds me of Alan, and I hate things that remind me of Alan).

Cullen then launched into a long explanation of his reasons for keeping quiet: ‘Leaders must show strength’ and all that. He concluded with: ‘Besides, we’ve managed to keep it quiet easily enough. No one has said anything.’ And I (rather sarcastically) retorted: ‘Yes, because couples have been slipping off in pairs since the beginning of time.’

I should not have said that. It ended the day on a sour note.

But other than those protocols, the day was rather pleasant. I got to ride beside Cullen and gave him some pointers about horse-handling. (I hope I didn’t annoy him. He seemed to be listening, but he also did not talk much. Concentrating on the task at hand, I suppose.) Bull rode with us as well (oh my goodness! The horse they have for him - it’s huge!) and I spent lunchtime talking with Dorian and Ella and Charter. Then I spent dinner with the scouts. I’ve had a lot of lovely conversations on this trip, actually. I haven’t recorded them all, but the company seems to be getting on very well.

Yet even as I write that, I again grow nervous. You see, I know how to get along with people, but I’m not certain that I know how to lead them. I’ve had no trouble in building relationships with the crew. Right now, I could tell you about anyone in the company. For example, Scout Belette is from Denerim, she wanted to be a knight, but was born to a washerwoman. This is a dream come true for her. Phillip is from the Montsimmard Circle. He loves flame spells, and keeps toying around with the campfire (much to the alarm of the others).

You see? I could go on about everyone. But I’m not certain that mere observation and friendliness help me with the task of being a leader. I notice that Cullen has a certain reserve in his dealings with others. He has this untouchable quality that I very much want to touch that I cannot quite emulate. I am trying to strike a balance between being approachable, but being in charge. I am trying to be competent, noble, respectable - and yet not put on airs. I fear that I come off as stilted - or a snob.

Take, for example, the way I handled that incident with Rion yesterday. I think I could have done better there. At lunch, I overhead Rion joking that Cullen sleeps alone in order to ‘take care of himself.’ As in… you know.

Well, masturbating. There, I said it wrote it.

It was a highly inappropriate thing to say about one’s commanding officer. So I did as I would have done if some apprentice had said such a thing about a senior enchanter: I cleared my throat right behind Rion, and then glared at him. He looked up with a start, stammered out an apology, and that ended that conversation quickly enough. I didn’t have to say anything more. Everyone who’d been listening to Rion scurried off. But I’m not certain if that was the best way to deal with it. Should I have reprimanded him more strongly? Given him latrine duty? I tend to approach the troops as I would a classroom, but I’m not certain that’s the right way to handle things.

Also, it didn’t help that the entire incident made me wonder about Cullen’s sleeping habits. I mean, surely Cullen doesn’t sleep alone so that he can masturbate nightly? On the trail? Surely not. But then again, how do soldiers take care of themselves? I mean, I’ve been going crazy, but I haven’t dared to do anything about it. Not when I’ve got no privacy

I shouldn’t be thinking about this. It’s not like I can ask Cullen about it, anyway.

I asked Cullen about it.

I did not mean to ask, but I did! Just now, Cullen and I were saddling up our horses and suddenly I blurted out: ‘Why do you sleep alone?’

Cullen gave me a look of complete surprise (a ‘did you just ask that?’ kind of look). I suddenly realized how that might sound. So I tried (Maker, I tried!) to smooth it over by saying, ‘It’s just that your single tent looks so cold and cramped. Surely we could find room for you in one of the larger shelters.’ (I don’t think that helped.)

Cullen replied, rather gruffly: ‘I talk in my sleep. It disturbs people. So I sleep alone.”

And that’s it. That’s the mystery. Nothing lewd. No ‘pulling the Dread Wolf’s tail’ or anything like that. Just that Cullen talks in his sleep (adorable, really) and he doesn’t want to bother people with it.

Maker, when will I learn not to let my curiosity get the better of me? Forget leadership behavior, I need a brush-up in simple manners.

There are days I behave so awkwardly, I’m amazed that I ever let myself out of the tower in the first place.

23 Firstfall, Crestwood, 1900 hours

Reached Crestwood outskirts. Aside from undead and the rift in the lake, this place hasn’t changed a bit. Said a prayer of thanks to the Maker for reaching our destination safely. No major incidents, and the company is working together well (Rion aside).

Plucky has gone missing this evening. Probably off hunting or scouting or whatever it is that she does when not dogging me. Several times now, I swear I’ve seen that bird poking through people’s packs, or even leafing through Charter’s papers. Must be my imagination.

It has been a strange journey. Though I’m comfortable with commanding a crew, I’ve never been comfortable with befriending a crew. That has happened in the Inquisition with far greater frequency than I expected. Not certain what to make of it. Not certain it’s entirely professional, either. I also fear my friendship with Kate is not entirely professional, but I still enjoy

It is for this reason that I remain concerned about bringing Hawke on board. While I hesitate bring it up with Kate the Inquisitor, I fear Hawke will destroy everything she touches disrupt the delicate balance of mage/non-mage comraderie in the ranks. We have not told the rank and file about the Champion. Yet, we will have to eventually. I fear what that revelation might bring. As Hawke is such a reckless wildwoman

Kate is a capable leader, but Hawke is utterly without control

It’s not that Kate can’t handle herself, but it seems a pity to introduce

If we had any other options, I would recommend another course of action. Clearly, we do not have options. Hence Hawke, hence Crestwood, and hence my presence here to guard Kate to advise.

Lyrium protocols planned for 2000 hours. Still feeling drawn to lyrium like anything. One would think that the hunger for it would lessen, not get worse intermittently

At least I’m getting used to the protocols. That’s something.

24 Firstfall (Probably. Must be after midnight by now.)

Siege tomorrow and I’ll be meeting Hawke soon. ALL THE THOUGHTS are in my head, demanding to be dealt with now. I’ve been trying to avoid worrying all week. But I can’t outrun these ruminations any more. So here I am by the now-dead campfire, writing by summoned magelight. Ser Lysette is on watch, looking out over that ominous green light in the lake. (There’s a rift in the lake! How on earth am I to deal with that? Cullen said there is a dam or something? And there have been reports of a dragon sighting?)

We got to the end of this road and there’s nothing but more road ahead. I’ve got a million things to do, I don’t even know where to begin, and Cullen…

I know I shouldn’t write about Cullen (again!), but I just feel so confused on that score. He seems to enjoy my company. I cerntainly enjoy his! I haven’t recorded all the little moments, but they’ve come to mean so much to me. Just small things: sitting by the fire together. His dry jokes that half the company misses entirely. His sly grin when someone does catch his jokes, and laughs at them. The way he falls out of his saddle every evening (Poor man! But it is rather funny.) Or even the way he goes walking about the forest, as if he’d been born and bred to spend his days in the wild. He is so himself out of doors. Today I said to him (or was it yesterday?) – I said, ‘You seem completely in your element out here.’ ‘I do like the fresh air,’ he replied (said this with that lopsided smile of his, the one that never fails to make me smile as well.) And then I said, ‘It’s strange you’d choose to be a templar then, and live your life behind walls.’

I should not have said that. It wiped the smile right off his face. And that was not what I intended.

Maker, I don’t know what to do with him. Or rather, I don’t know what to do with my feelings toward him. I feel we are becoming closer, but closer how? As friends, certainly. As co-leaders… yes? But there’s something hiding there, something that makes me uneasy and I don’t know what it is.

Well no, I think I know what it is. It’s the lyrium protocols. It’s his history as a templar and his current battle with this addiction. It makes things so uncertain, both for him and me. I never quite know what I ought to say or do. Am I helping, or simply being selfish in my desire to help? These two things seem intertwined, and that’s never happened before.

For while I know I should not consider my needs or wants while doing the protocols, I’ve come to crave holding Cullen’s hand. I know that’s wrong of me. The lyrium protocols aren’t for me or even about me. It ought to be enough for me that Cullen is holding up well and he’s healthy. And so it is! But I also enjoy the lyrium protocols for my own, selfish reasons. I spend most of my days feeling lost and unmoored. Then for just a few minutes, someone takes me by the hand (or I take him by the hand, I suppose. Details.) Suddenly I feel connected. I feel grounded. The rift in the lake doesn’t seem so far off. The tasks ahead of me are just tasks. It all seems quite managable when I’m not alone, and Maker knows how much I need that.

But I’m afraid to rely on it.

There it is! That’s the problem. I fear the other boot will drop. I fear that no matter how kind someone is - no matter how generous or lovely, the friendship will end. That person will realize that I am a mage, and that there is no getting over that condition (though Maker knows I’ve tried!). Then they will back away. I fear this will happen with Cullen. I fear that one day, he will look into my eyes and see how much I like him and then he’ll stammer out some excuse and back away…

Actually, he’s done as much several times now. That ought to warn me to keep my guard up. Thankfully, Cullen keeps coming back - as a friend, of course. But if I ever tried for more –

No, that’s not a good idea. Though maybe if he –

No. Never mind.

The thing is, I feel completely caught up in my own head these days. It comes of having no one to talk to. It’s not like I can unburden myself to Cullen - about Cullen. How would that work? I share far too many of my worries with him as it is. And who else could I talk to? Coll and Robert are away, and even if they were here, I know what they would say. Coll would say, ‘Feck it, Kate. Don’t worry so much!’ And Robert would shrug and say, ‘Sounds like a pain in the arse. Let it go.’ Good advice, if only I could take it! I’ve never been able to will away my worry.

Perhaps I can help myself. I could make a list (I know! A list! But it seems I need one) and then work my way through my problems one by one. So then:

Things Kate is Worried About

Liking Cullen.

To clarify: I like Cullen and that brings a lot of complications with it.

Am Inquisitor.

To clarify: I am the leader of the Inquisition and feel completely unequal to the task.

To clarify further: everyone is looking to me to save the world (groan if you must, Coll, but it’s true).

My magic isn’t working. (!!!!)

Jealous of Hawke.

Alright, I did not mean to write that last one. But I did write it. So now I must think that through. Am I jealous of Hawke?

I suppose I am.

Maybe not jealous. Rather, I’m haunted by the ghost of comparison. I overhead a rumor that Cassandra originally wanted Hawke to become the Inquisitor. Hawke was the first choice.

Well, why not? Hawke is an ideal to all mages. Hawke roamed free when the rest of us were chained; she spoke confidently when the rest of us kept our secrets. Hawke never brooded, nor succumbed to despair and self-harm. It comes of being an apostate, I suppose. In fact, Hawke is so popular that we’ve had to keep this meeting a secret. Only Cullen does not get giddy when Hawke’s name is mentioned. He just purses his lips and says nothing. As for Varric, he’s been no help. When I tried to ask him what to expect from his friend, he scowled and drew away. Strange behavior from the only two people who knew Hawke personally.

But there it is: Hawke was the one the Inquisition wanted. I am the contingency plan. Hawke is the Champion. I’m just Kate.

I mean, when one considers the reason they made me Inquisitor, it’s not a very flattering one. They chose me because I’m Andraste’s Herald - or believed to be so. I was chosen because I have a magical mark on my hand – as if that were a proper recommendation! I am certain that before long, everyone will realize what a coincidental mistake all this is.

(I am also concerned that these clothes do not suit me and I should have brought another set of armor. I suppose that’s ridiculous, worrying about my wardrobe when it’s perfectly serviceable. Vivienne would be appalled at my second-guessing her choices. But the Champion always had such a keen sense of style, and I’m sure I shall feel quite grubby by comparison.)

But consider! Cullen would make a far better Inquisitor than I, what with his commanderlyness. Or take Cassandra, with all her honor and flashing armor. Or Leliana, or Josephine. Or anyone, really.

Well, almost anyone. Rion would be pretty bad at it. Coll and Robert wouldn’t want to. Sera would simply use the role to prank all of Thedas, and Morris…

Okay, so maybe half of the Inquisition would be better than me. Or a quarter. Still, that’s a lot of candidates. And when one considers what an Inquisitor is supposed to do…

What is an Inquisitor supposed to do?

It suddenly occurs to me that no one ever briefed me on my job description. It was assumed that I would ‘lead’ (whatever that means). But when I consider the etymology of the word ‘inquisitor’ (linguistic roots are always a good place to start), then I find myself somewhat comforted. For an Inquisitor is one who inquisits. As in, asks questions. So there we are:

I am the Questions-Asker-in-Chief. Why did I never think of that before?

Well that’s comforting. I can ask questions. In fact, I’m rather good at that. Under other circumstances, that would be an ideal line of work for me. Though if I recall my history right, the first inquisitor, Ameridan, asked straightforward questions like ‘Are you a blood mage?’ and ‘Are you an abomination?’ He summarily dispatched anyone who answered in the affirmative. Rather a grisly line of inquiry.

So what are my questions?

‘Who killed the Divine?’ We’ve answered that question. Or rather, Corypheus answered that question at Haven. We are still reeling from that answer. But his answer just raises even more questions: What is Corypheus? What does he want? How did he survive if Hawke and Varric say they killed him? Most importantly: how do we stop him?

These are the questions I plan to put to the Champion. (Perhaps I should start a list? On the back page, maybe.) But even if we find answers to those questions, there are many more to follow: What of the mages and the templars and their war? What of the Circles and the Chantry? Who should be Divine? Does the Inquisition try to solve those problems? Do we dare?

Here is the real question then: What questions shall I ask? What questions will help us move forward? For contrary to that old proverb, there are stupid questions. The Chantry asked many stupid questions, I believe. ‘How shall we best imprison mages?’ for example. That question was biased from the start. It assumed that mages were the problem, that mages needed containment. The Chantry should have asked ‘How shall we keep people safe when magic has destructive as well as healing power?’ If we’d formulated the question like that, we might have found a better solution than the Circles. We need questions that clarify and lead us to lasting answers.

But there’s the real trouble: it isn’t enough to ask questions. I am expected to find answers, too. Inquisitor and Oracle – that’s what they hired me for.

Answers are harder to come by than questions, I fear. And when I do find satisfactory answers - satisfactory to me, at any rate - they are rarely Orthodox ones. I tend to favor heretical explanations.

Then again, if Orthodox answers worked, the Chantry would not have failed in the first place. The whole problem with the world is that people clung to stupid answers and stupid questions for far too long. Sometimes you need to break a bone again in order to…

Where did that thought come from? Just now I had a image of a woman, telling me something about… bones breaking? The memory is gone now. How curious. But I feel better all of a sudden. That’s curious, too.

For a gentle voice seems to whisper inside of me. It says that I cannot let fear of failure keep me from my work. I cannot allow Hawke’s brilliance to cause me to give up hope. Otherwise, Corypheus will win due to my own self-doubt, and that is unacceptable. There is more here at stake than my own ego.

I may not be the best leader - or even a very good leader. But I am - by whatever twist of fate - a leader. I am the Inquisitor. I am here, and…

I am here. I am here now. And I will do what I can. That’s really all there is to say.

Well now! I think I managed to talk myself around to a better mood. There’s something to this journaling thing after all! This diary might be a mess of rambling and nonsense, but if I managed to make myself feel better, then it wasn’t waste of parchment, now was it?

… Hm. I need sleep.

24 Firstfall, 200 hours

I am not getting used to the lyrium protocols. I am not getting used to anything.

It’s the middle of the night, and I can’t sleep. Feeling hungry, but not for food. Fighting so many conflicting desires

I saw Kate out there, writing by the campfire. I had half a mind to go sit with her, but

She’s always scribbling in that journal of hers. What is she writing anyway? Is it lists? It must be lists. Surely it’s not anything about me - is it?

I am trying to determine the best way to proceed. I know I’m not in any sort of state to seek out a relationship. But perhaps after we’ve dealt with Corypheus

Perhaps if I had any reason to believe that Kate was interested

Perhaps if I had a clear indication of interest on Kate’s part

a very clear indication

Perhaps when we get Crestwood secured, I might take her on a walk? There is that spot down by the lake, the one I used to visit as a child. If the dock is still standing, that might be the perfect place to

Damn it all, what am I doing? This isn’t a diary. Can’t use the log to

Siege plan is in place. Everything else can wait.