'Till the End of Time || Sansa Stark & Phantasm

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    t i l l. .t h e. .e n d. .o f. .t i m e

    The pain was overwhelming. Cullen clutched the sheets in his bare hands and groaned so loudly, he was certain his soldiers would hear. Sweat dripped down the sides of his face and he rubbed them away, panting as though he'd just reached physical limit. He'd barely moved all day, in truth. He ached to be training, writing letters or doing whatever the Inquisition demanded of him, but the lyrium withdrawals had peaked and every nerve suffered for it. The sleep-deprived warrior thrashed as another spasm of pain smothered his senses. He leaned over to vomit in a nearby bowl Estelle had provided for him, and when he was done, he laid back on the bed with a sigh.

    "Lie still," said the Inquisitor with a deep frown. Cullen did as she asked. Estelle placed her fingertips on his temples and rubbed in small circular patterns, and the commander nearly moaned from the release she provided. It didn't solve his aches and pains, but it relieved them considerably as she continued to massage him. "You need more than just me, Cullen. Let me bring Solas here at least. He knows spirit magic too, maybe we can--"

    "No," he interrupted stubbornly. "Please, Inquisitor. The fewer people that know about this, the better."

    "Don't be like that. You need help." Estelle removed her fingers from his skin and placed a cold washcloth atop his forehead. "I know you fear magic, but we can help. I don't care if you approve or not. This is an order from your Inquisitor--you will accept the help I give, even if it means the involvement of others. Promise?"

    A frustrated sigh escaped his lips. "I promise. But for the record, I wish you wouldn't."

    "I know." Estelle cupped his cheek, showing the affectionate friendship the two had developed. "I'm going to retrieve Solas and Dorian, alright? I think they can help you most efficiently."

    "Dorian?" Cullen scoffed. "What could he do? Please, Estelle, I don't want anyone to know unless they must."

    Her brows furrowed. Cullen did not want Dorian to see him like this--he was the Commander of the Inquisition, he shouldn't be observed in such weakness. It was why he'd avoided mentioning Dorian at all for the several days this illness had taken him. However, he should have known better than to assume Estelle would not mention him of her own accord. The two were inseparable. It was a miracle he hadn't stopped by already. With a sigh of submission, he turned away from her. "Do as you will, Inquisitor. But if I cannot last, perhaps I should take the lyrium after all."

    "I won't let it come to that." Estelle brushed his cheek with her thumb before rising from her seat and exiting the room promptly. Cullen did not want to voice his fears of being left alone with his symptoms and hallucinations, but making his suffering known was never his strong suit. He lie in wait for her return and faced the demons that came for him, all the while wondering if he could ever survive this, if refusing lyrium was a foolish decision after all.

    I could die here, he thought, and who then would fill his place?​
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  2. When Estelle came with Solas to fetch him in the library, Dorian was entirely unsurprised. He was an observant man by nature. Something had been going on, for some time now, and he was simply waiting for his friend to decide it was time to tell him. The Commander had been uncharacteristically absent from the daily activities of Skyhold, and the Inquisitor seemed particularly on edge. Either the two were engaged in some sort of secret affair, or something was horribly wrong. He wasn't sure which he would prefer to be the case.

    "I suppose I'll see what I can do." Dorian placed the book he was currently working on beside him and stood once Estelle had explained the situation. Lyrium was such a dangerous substance, particularly for those without magical abilities, and it horrified him that there was an entire faction built on consuming the stuff. The Chantry's use of it was among the worst of their crimes, in Dorian's opinion. In a sense, the Templars of the southern nations were victims just as much as the mages were. The effects of resisting the addiction, however, were previously unknown to him. He wondered, as the trio of mages made their way to Cullen's quarters, if perhaps the Commander's decision was unprecedented. He hadn't heard of such a thing, in any case. It made it difficult to imagine how they could help him, or if he even could be helped. The mage would have to do his research on the matter.

    Dorian didn't know what he had expected, but it wasn't what he was greeted with. Cullen looked... ill. Deathly ill. Exhausted and disheveled, like he'd never seen the man before. The commander was not by any means the most neat and presentable member of the Inquisition -- in fact, Dorian had an extensive mental list of the things he'd change about his appearance, given the opportunity -- but he was always dignified. He'd never seen him looking like an absolute mess. He swallowed the lump in his throat, plastering a grin on his face. It certainly wouldn't help Cullen to reveal his reaction.

    "You've never looked better, Commander," the mage teased as he stepped fully into the room, following the Inquisitor. While he could certainly do his reading and search for a remedy, Dorian was unsure what he could do in this particular moment to help Cullen. He was not a healer. He had never excelled at the more beneficial schools of magic. Necromancy, as it turns out, didn't do much for the living. "I very much admire the sentiment of what you're trying to do, but it may have been wise to consult with someone first. You didn't have any clue what this was going to do to you, did you?"

    He turned to Estelle. "Have you any ideas? My knowledge of the long-term effects of lyrium is virtually non-existent."
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  3. Estelle picked up on the Commander's little smirk at Dorian's comment. It was more than she'd gotten from him in the past few days, and for that, she was grateful. She sat on the edge of Cullen's bed and removed the cold washcloth from him, which was now warm with the Commander's feverish heat. "The Dalish never used lyrium, but I've spent a long time studying it since Haven. I think all he has to do is...endure it. If we can relieve his symptoms until it passes, I think it'll go away with time, and eventually he'll be withdrawal-free. But we can't tell anyone except Cassandra, Leliana and Josephine. I suspect they already know."

    "They know," Cullen groaned. "They keep...visiting. Josephine brought me flowers." He gestured weakly to a bouquet of beautiful winter roses by the window. "Sorry I'm not much company. Maker, I can barely talk..."

    "Hush," soothed the Herald. "You don't need to. With three mages, you'll be fine in a couple of days." No one in the room believed her, but it was better that she remain confident for all their sakes. "Solas? Is there something you can do to relieve his symptoms?"

    "For the pain, yes. It will be considerably easier for him to move, though I'm not certain of the side-effects. It is an elven spell. Clearly, he is not elven."

    "But the spell should work," Estelle replied. "Humans aren't so physically different from us, after all." She turned to Dorian. "I was hoping you could make something to help him eat and ease his nausea. He's barely kept anything down in days."
  4. "I'm certain I can figure something out."

    Dorian did not necessarily think himself a more talented mage than the others, but he recognized that he'd been afforded a far better education on magic than the vast majority of southerners. It was simply a result of his upbringing, and while medicinal magic was not an area of talent for him, he was knowledgeable on alchemy. He would be able to do his part. "It will take some time, but I should be able to cook something up. And I'll see if there's anything else to be learned about lyrium withdrawal. The two of you can work your elven magic in the meantime." It was late enough in the day that Dorian figured he would be up until the early hours of tomorrow working and researching, but he didn't think twice about it. This was an important cause, and he enjoyed putting his skills to good use. Besides, it was terrible seeing the poor man like this. It was a bit like witnessing a puppy being kicked.

    "I will see about helping you get some sleep, as well. You look as if you've been having some trouble with it, and rest is probably going to be the best thing for you right now." He turned his gaze back to Cullen as he spoke, the same grin on his face as before. "Apart from my being here, of course. I hear I'm great company."
  5. "If your company is a good as your chess game, I beg to differ." Cullen couldn't resist an awkward smile. His sense of humor, shy thought it may be, remained in tact. "Nightmares make it difficult to sleep. I'd...appreciate whatever you can spare." He looked away, not wanting to meet Dorian's eyes--it was already hard to do so without feeling bizarre and nervous. Estelle seemed to catch on, but said nothing. A wave of pain washed over him and he groaned again, gripping the sheets with sweaty hands.

    "Shh," cooed the Inquisitor. "It'll be over soon." He felt her fingers on his temples again and sighed in relief. He floated in the dream world until fading to black, absorbed in a comfortable sleep, yet still plagued by the sickness that drained him.

    He didn't know how many hours had passed upon waking. The moon shone through the window, casting white light across his sick flesh. For a moment, Cullen looked almost like a ghost. He turned his head to the figure by the desk, going over papers and something he couldn't see. The scent of herbs drifted through the room. Cullen realized just how hungry he was, and he hoped Estelle would have something for him. She had been his caretaker, after all--who else would still be here after midnight?

    "Stell," he groaned, rubbing his face weakly. "Tell me you have something..."
  6. Dorian worked well into the night, taking advantage of everything at his disposal. Skyhold was extraordinarily unnerving at night, the scattered candlelight against the crumbling walls casting strange shadows, and the cold wind outside howling hauntingly through the empty halls. He was back and forth between the library, garden and Undercroft, researching healing spells while his potions were being prepared, despite having not been asked to do so. Healing the ill and injured was one great benefit of magic, but not one that Dorian had ever really cared for. He wasn't entirely sure why he was suddenly so determined to become an overnight healer, particularly when there were mages here who already knew a great deal more on the subject than he did.

    He eventually decided to take his work to Cullen's room, a basket of potions and herbs from the garden in one arm, a stack of helpful tomes he'd collected in the other, stopping to wake the cook on his way. "Rise and shine," Dorian had all but shouted at the closed door. "I need something mild, easy to keep down. Soup and bread, perhaps?"

    A groan, followed by an angry voice. "Why don't you just stop drinking so much, you damned 'vint?"

    "Not for me this time. Just leave it in the kitchen for me. I appreciate it." A too-cheerful response, before Dorian turned and continued his trek to Cullen's bedside, ignoring the string of curses coming from the door behind him.

    The commander was fast asleep when he got there, and Dorian was careful not to make noise. The poor man needed every bit of rest he could get, and he'd wait here until morning if need be to avoid waking him up. It would just seem cruel, even if it was with the purpose of helping him.

    In the meantime, Dorian set up at the man's desk. He'd read briefly on some elfroot recipes that could be quite beneficial, and he set to crushing and mixing the leaves he had with him. What he'd gathered so far was that elfroot could fix nearly anything. It seemed to be only an hour or so before he heard movement from Cullen's side of the room, and he glanced up, worried that he'd roused him.

    "Oh, no, not Estelle. Even better." The mage chuckled. "I didn't mean to wake you, but since you're up, I may have something for you. A couple of things, actually. Hopefully one of them will help." Picking a vial of soft purple liquid from his basket, he made his way to the Templar's bedside, taking the seat that stood there. "Here is the one thing I was actually asked for. Something to settle your stomach. It works wonders, I swear."

    He popped the cork off, handing it to Cullen. "I got the cook to whip something up for you. I'd like to see you eat before I retire for the night."
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