Aylin sighed as she pushed herself out of her bed. She had spent the last few weeks in the Hinterlands trying to spread the Inquisition’s influence. Her legs were sore from all the traveling and with all the constant fighting her mana stores were constantly low.
So this is what all those adventures were like Aylin thought lightly as she braided her hair and tied it into a tight bun. She knew that eventually she would grow accustomed to it all and her mana stores would grow. Closing her eyes, she splashed some water on her face. They never tell you this part in the storybooks she thought as she dropped the towel back on the desk before walking out into the cold.
She gave a quick look around before hurrying down towards the stables. She barely had any time to herself, Cassandra or one of the other advisors were constantly following her trying to discuss their next steps. In the coming days, they were to leave for Val Royeaux to appeal to the Chantry. She didn’t expect that it would work but they had to try, if the Inquisition had any hope of working they had to correct the image in everyone’s mind.
It’s not that she didn’t know what was at stake. The breach in the sky threatened everyone, she knew well of the dangers the Fade had to offer. She had seen the demons that laid in wait trying to find the right heartstring to pull to sway her mind. The idea of demons having free reign over the land was terrifying. She knew nothing of life outside of her Circle, always protected, sheltered, guarded, caged in… but that was her life. She had never known anything else, but what about everyone else? She could still hear Varric’s words in her head. It didn’t matter that she was afraid, that she never wanted any of this. As much as she wanted to just close her eyes and pretend this wasn’t happening, she couldn’t just run away. She knew she had to find a way to mend the gaping hole in the sky before it was too late.
Quietly she walked up to the stables looking over the mounts. Some were from Master Dennet, the others gifts to the Inquisition. She didn’t know why, but for some reason she always found herself gravitating towards the gift the Collective had sent the Inquisition. A ‘bog unicorn’ they called it. A horse who had risen from the dead to serve a noble cause. Looking over, she frowned as she saw it’s stall was empty. With a quiet sigh, Aylin moved on knowing that Dennet must have been working with the mount. Instead she walked over to the first horse Master Dennet had given her. She had walked it around with her until they had made it back to Haven, too embarrassed to admit that she knew nothing of riding. Slowly Aylin reached out, rubbing her palm against the horse’s cheek. She felt herself smile as the horse took a step closer.
“Here,” a voice called from behind Aylin.
“Wha—Commander?” Aylin asked as she turned around nervously clasping her hands behind her back.
“A treat for the horse,” Cullen offered as he held out a small cube of sugar.
“Oh… Thank you,” Aylin said as she reached out taking the small cube in her hand. “Umm… How do.. I mean..” she rambled nervously as she looked down to the sugar cube.
“Ah.. I see.. Have you never ridden?” Cullen asked as he took a step closer to her. “Turn your hand,” he instructed as he reached out, turning her hand so that her palm was up. “Stay calm, they will sense your hesitation,” he offered as he placed the sugar cube in her palm
“No, I was taken to the Circle before I was old enough to learn,” Aylin admitted as she felt Cullen directing her hand over towards the horse. “And I had no need to learn after, I was never going to be free of the Circle,” she admitted as she reached back up to pet the horse.
“And since the Circles had been destroyed you never?” Cullen asked curiously as he leaned up against the stall.
“No, I didn’t have the money for such things nor a place to keep one safe,” Aylin admitted as she watched the horse started looking for more treats.
“Well then, we will have to teach you,” Cullen announced as he pushed himself from the stall. “We’ll start with saddling a horse,” he continued as he walked over to the side of the stables pulling some of the padding from the stack.
“Ah Master Dennet,” Cullen announced as he saw the him walking the bog unicorn back into the stables. “If you wouldn’t mind just tying him up, he will be my example,” he added as he walked back over to Aylin with a few pads in his arms.
“First is the padding, you want to select a firm padding, something sturdy to help protect your horse,” he started as he turned the first pad he had took over. “You see this,” he said as he pointed to some wear into the padding. “This is worn in and won’t provide the protection the horse needs for comfort,” he finished as he set the pad off to the side. “Now this pad is newer,” he continued as he showed her the different points of the padding.
Aylin listened intently as Cullen showed her the different points of the equipment and explained the importance of how it all worked together in order to protect the horse as well as the rider. After a few minutes, Master Dennet had come out with a white horse following behind him. Aylin watched as Cullen showed her how to dress the horse. She watched the way he placed the padding upon the horses’ back, then covered the padding with a warm blanket. With each step Cullen had her repeat the process mimicking his actions onto her own mount.
“Good, a quick learner,” Cullen complimented as he looked over her saddle, checking the synching for proper alignment.
“Thank you,” Aylin blushed as she looked over her work, watching where he would slide his hands to check for tautness.
“A horse, no matter the breed is more than just a tool. The better care you can provide it, the better it will serve you,” Cullen said as he rubbed his hand along the horse’s mane. “Now… shall we see how you do?” Cullen asked as he turned to Aylin.
Aylin listened when Cullen explained how one would get on a horse and the commands that the horses had been trained with, but it didn’t make it any easier for her. She had watched as Cullen had climbed on top of his mount as if he was born doing so.
Okay, so you just slide your foot in here Aylin thought as she slid her foot into a stirrup. Then you just kind of she told her self as she pushed herself off the ground, throwing her leg over the saddle.
“You really made it look much simpler,” Aylin said as she tried to steady herself on the saddle. “But.. oh this is just,” she stopped as she could feel the strength of the horse underneath her, it was thrilling and yet terrifying.
“You’re doing fine,” Cullen complimented as he walked his mount around hers to check her balance. “Now, an easy walk around Haven to get you started,” he pushed as he headed over towards the doors of the stables, looking back when he hadn’t heard her following behind him.
“Okay, now how do I get you to go again?” Aylin asked herself as she ran her hand over the horse’s shoulder.
Carefully Aylin pulled the reins to the side feeling how the horse would turn as she directed him. Well it seems turning is easy enough… now forward? she thought as she pressed her heels into the horse’s side. The feel of the horses movements was unsettling, the lack of control was unfamiliar. No matter how she tried to keep her nerves down she could feel the tension in her chest as she held her breath. She finally had settled down as she finally made her way over to Cullen.
“Good, now try to loosen up some,” Cullen offered as he headed out to the path. “Trust him,” he offered as he turned to watch Aylin follow behind him.
Slowly the pair made their way down the path, the cold morning air was still and made the path seem even more vacant. Aylin began to look around, the world seemed so different, almost as though she were flying. It was peaceful until the snow had grown too heavy for the branches, snapping the thin branches. The snow and branches fell over her and the horse, spooking him to a full sprint. Aylin felt her body shift as the horse drove forward. Instinctively she leaned forward trying to find the balance she had felt before.
The cold air rushed past her as the horse raced down the path. She barely heard Cullen call after her as the she weaved through the trees. Shit she thought as she did her best to hold on for the ride. Cullen didn’t tell me what to do in this situation she thought anxiously as she glanced back to see Cullen racing up to her side.
“Whoa!” Cullen called as he reached over, pulling firmly back on her reins bringing the horse to a halt.
Aylin’s knees felt weak as she swung her leg back over, dismounting from the horse. Her legs collapsing underneath her as she put her feet on the ground, dropping her into the snow.
“Maker’s breath,” Cullen said quietly as he dismounted from his own horse, wrapping the reins into a low branch. “Are you alright?” he asked calmly as he walked over to Aylin’s side to see her laughing.
“Oh wow… that was.. terrifying …and thrilling,” she laughed as she took his hand, allowing him to help her back to her feet before brushing the snow off. “What heart…” Aylin said quietly as she walked back over to her mount, running her hand over the large creature’s neck.
“With all things considered, you did quite well,” Cullen complimented as he watched her pet the horse. “You kept your composure well,” he added as he looked over the two horses to make sure that they had both calmed. “This will allow you to build trust between the you and your mount. You must believe that he is there, take command of your horse. And this will come with time and practice,” he finished as he reached up releasing the reins.
“How is the Inquisition doing?” Aylin asked curiously, hoping to take a moment to hear Cullen’s thoughts.
“We have received a number of recruits, locals from Haven and some pilgrims. None, however, made quite the entrance you did,” Cullen answered lightly as he looked over to Aylin.
“Ah, yes… It wasn’t quite my idea, but at least I got everyone’s attention,” Aylin laughed as she thought of the impression that she had made to the people in the last couple days. The idea that their beliefs in her had changed so much in such a small amount of time was still astounding to her.
“That you did,” Cullen agreed. “I was recruited to the Inquisition in Kirkwall myself. I was there during the mage uprising. I saw first hand what the devastation had caused. Cassandra sought a solution. When she offered me a position I left the Templars to join her cause. Now it seems we face something far worse,” he explained as he turned the horses, handing Aylin her reins.
“I had always heard of how devoted you were to the Templars… Leaving the order must have been quite the decision,” Aylin started quietly as she followed Cullen’s lead out of the woods. “You really believe the Inquisition will work?” she asked as she glanced over to see Cullen watching her.
“I do.. The Chantry has lost control over both the Templars and mages, now they argue over the next Divine while the breach remains. The Inquisition could act while the Chantry cannot. Our followers will be part of that. There is so much we can-“ Cullen explained excitedly as he watched Aylin lead her horse. “… Forgive me, I doubt you were asking for a lecture,” he finished as he realized how he sounded.
“No… But it is nice to hear so much passion for our cause, so if you have one prepared I’d love to hear it,” Aylin smiled as she glanced over to Cullen.
“Ha, another time perhaps,” Cullen laughed. “I-ah.. There’s still a lot of work ahead,” he insisted as he pushed on towards Haven.
“I suppose we better head back then,” Aylin said sadly as she looked over the quiet woods, the trees too thick to see the hole in the sky. It’s almost as if the world was back to normal… she thought for a moment before climbing back on to the horse.
“Yes… the others are no doubt waiting to discuss the plans on heading to Val Royeaux,” Cullen agreed as he climbed back onto his horse and headed back to Haven.