Truthfully, this wasn’t the strangest thing the inquisition had been sent in way of thanks so far, but he found it difficult to figure out the reasoning either way.
“Uh...we are grateful? Is it for...err...riding? Or perhaps eating? I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with the custom for this.”
Cullen rubbed the back of his neck nervously as he addressed the party before, wondering for the hundredth time why he was the one sent to deal with this. Surely Josephine would make more sense. Or even Cassandra. The Nightingale? Anyone but him, at least.
The elven man before him appeared horrified at the mention of eating the creature, so he supposed that was out.
“No! She is Hanal'ghilan, a Golden Halla that appears in times of need. And this one is...especially sacred.” Cullen thought the man had been a little too careful with that wording. “Our keeper thought it best to send her here for safekeeping, along with the wish that the blessing Hanal'ghilan brings shows our thanks for assisting our clan.”
Cullen looks at the creature in question who was standing calmly next to the elven man. It appeared...not much different from regular halla, honestly. Perhaps a bit more of a yellow tint to its coat then normal, and bronze horns instead of the usual silver. However, he knew “sacred” meant that this creature was just going to spend its days in the stable doing absolutely nothing, growing fat on Haven’s precious resources. They couldn’t ride it or eat it, so now he supposed the Inquisition has gained its first pet.
“Very well. We accept your...offering. Thank you...err…”
“Loranil, Commander. The Inquisitor himself worked with my clan to bring me here. He said to report to you.”
Of course he did. The Qunari was becoming overly fond of the phrase ‘speak to the Commander.’
“Oh, a soldier recruit then. Alright, welcome aboard Loranil. Report to that man over there in blue and he’ll get you set up,” he nodded briskly. With another nod at a nearby soldier, he silently ordered him to lead the halla to the stables. Surprisingly, the creature seemed to follow direction well without the need for a lead, following the soldier obediently.
The elven man bellowed what he assumed was a farewell to the animal then started walking towards Rylan, as ordered.
“Wait! Loranil, was it? Make sure to stop by the stables and let them know how to care for the halla, if you please.”
Loranil bowed his head in acknowledgment and was lost in the sea of bodies crowding the courtyard soon after. Cullen sighed wearily and rubbed his forehead, the beginnings of a headache beginning to make itself known. At least with that bit of ridiculous business done he could escape to his tent for a time. With a quick glance around to assure no one was coming for him, he strode quickly towards his temporary home, only breathing freely again once he tied the cloth shut. He settled into his desk and attacked the evergrowing pile of reports, hoping that losing himself in busy work would distract him from the throbbing in his head.
The headache only grew worse. He’d known that quitting the lyrium wouldn’t be easy, but he hadn’t quite been prepared for the pain. He’d been without for an entire week now and his body was protesting the sudden lack greatly. It was getting hard to hide the increasing number of symptoms as his hands began to shake or his head throbbed to the point he couldn’t focus his eyes. Or the incredibly embarrassing occasion three days ago wherein one of his lieutenants barged in on him expelling his breakfast into a chamberpot.
It was now late in the evening, nearing the midnight hour bells he would imagine. The air seemed somewhat crisp and he decided a stroll outside might help him cool off and wind down enough to attempt some sleep tonight.
He dared to leave off his breastplate, not wanting anything restricting his chest right now but pulled on his cloak. Despite his desire to cool off his overheating body, he wasn’t fool enough to stride out with barely anything and risk taking truly ill. As he left his tent, he was pleased to see that most people had already retired for the evening, leaving only those assigned to night watch and various workers too busy to pay him any mind.
He roamed about the grounds, hoping he appeared more like he was inspecting for strategic weakness or something else more impressive than taking a midnight stroll. Because he just couldn’t help it, he still took a mental tally of things that would need fixing or refilled. The healer’s area needed more tents. That elderly couple near a cooking fire needed more blankets. The shoes on that soldier’s horse needed replacing.
That, of course, led him to wonder when the last time was he checked on his own mount. He’s been rather bound to Haven of late with little time to ride. She was surely feeling neglected. He switched his path to head towards the stables. He could at least give her a brush and an apple before seeking his bed.
Haven’s stables were small and not very sturdy, but seemed comfortable enough for now. If they were here for much longer he was probably going to have them fixed up, but any weather was kept away beyond a slight chill. His horse has been through worse and handled it well. She was Feraldan, after all.
He stopped by the crate of apples kept near the wooden door and grabbed a large one, clicking his tongue as he sauntered towards her stall.
“Grace? Have a treat for you, girl.”
The horse whinnied in welcome, shaking her mane as she popped her head over the gate. The bay mare looked like her upkeep has been being taken care of, despite his preoccupation. She nuzzled his shoulder, nipping a bit no doubt to protest his negligence.
“Sorry, girl. This nasty business has been pulling my mind all over the place. I’ll take you out for a ride soon, I promise. Perhaps we can go around and check the surrounding area for weakness tomorrow, give you a chance to work some of this building fat off, eh?”
Cullen chuckled as she quickly chomped the apple from his hand, giving him a side-eyed look as though to say, ‘What fat?’
There was an...unearthly bray in the stall next to hers. Cullen cringed at the sound, suddenly remembering why he’d never been very fond of halla. Their cries sounded like a wailing child to him. Cullen sighed and peeked into the other stall, finding the golden halla watching him expectantly.
“I suppose you saw Grace get an apple and now you want one? Can you even eat them? I don’t see why not, I suppose.”
He walked back to the crate and grabbed another apple and brought it to the halla.
“Here you go Hana...err...gilie? I don’t suppose you’d settle for Hana, would you? I’m afraid I don’t have the tongue for languages.”
The halla brayed it’s awful sound again, which he took as an agreement. She accepted the apple with much more impressive manners than his mount had, delicately nibbling the offering.
The headache that he’d been trying so hard to ignore chose that exact moment to reach a level worse than he had ever experienced. The pain was so sharp and he could feel his head throbbing so mightily he wouldn’t be surprised if it would burst. He groaned and clutched at his head, dropping to one knee. He clenched his teeth, willing himself to tough it out.
The halla brayed again, making him almost want to sob. The sound was horrible during a normal time. Currently, it was painful enough it felt as though it was piercing his ears.
Suddenly, there was a bright golden light shining from the halla’s stall. He shaded his eyes with his hand, more worried about the discomfort the light brought with it than the source at the moment.
“You are hurt! Here, let me help you.”
The voice was lovely - soft and calming, with an almost musical quality to it.
His other knee dropped to the floor as his body weakened further. As his vision darkened, he caught a single glimpse of the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his entire life. Her modesty was only saved by the curtain of snowy white hair covering her bare breasts as she leaned over his falling form. Her amber eyes filled with concern as she reached towards him with a glowing hand - skin bronzed and shimmering as though dusted in gold.
“Sleep now,” she whispered, bringing the hand to his forehead.
And then he knew no more, fainting on the straw-covered wood floors of Haven’s stable.