We Fight It
“They’re getting shorter, though, aren’t they?”
After the existential horror of the information Cullen had delivered to her had sunk in, had processed in her mind that what she was seeing just a few dozen miles from home might be the start of a ravaging terror that had the power to destroy empires and last for centuries, Eleanor started making excuses. It was what the mind did in the face of such evidence. So she went about her day, making lunch, answering emails, and every now and again she would pop up her head and ask something hopeful.
“They… they have,” he tried to answer her honestly. “We have a lot more information; we have better weapons, better strategies. But this is a whole new set of circumstances. Who knows what things affect the strength of a Blight? Who knows how long the darkspawn have been setting up camp here?” He ran his hands through his hair. “We don’t even know if this is the Sixth Blight, or a new First.”
“Does it matter?” she asked, looking up from the stove.
He blinked, as though the thought had not occurred to him, crossed his arms in front of his blue t-shirted chest. “I suppose it doesn’t.”
“When did you say the Breach first opened on your side?” she stirred a pot that would be lentil soup. The air was chilly today. Soup would warm her bones.
“Seven? Eight years ago?”
“Then that’s all the longer they could have been here, right? I mean, there was no other way for them to get through.” She put the heat on low and laid the spoon on the countertop. “Right?”
Cullen leaned in the kitchen doorway. “Ostensibly.”
But then Eleanor was the one who furrowed her brow now. “Are years even the same?”
“The same as what?”
“Between here and there. Is it fall? Is it daylight right now? Are years between three hundred and fifty and three hundred and seventy five days?”
Cullen opened his mouth in thought, his tongue probing at his teeth as he tried to remember. Did the days feel the same here as there? Could he even really remember anymore? He had spent thirty-seven years in Thedas but the months he was now removed from it had become the norm. He tried to remember his first days here. Was he disoriented? Did night seem to come too soon? Did the seasons change too fast? Too slow?
No, no he didn’t think so. Nothing felt out of place - well, a lot of things felt out of place, but for all of that, not his sense of time.
“They must be the same,” he said, as much to himself as to her. He scratched the stubble under his chin. Was that to be expected? Would the Breach only create a pathway between similar worlds? Could it only? Did the conditions between each end point have to be the same?
Cullen squinted his eyes. This was not his area of expertise. As far as he knew, this was no one’s area of expertise, but he was not suited for this. All he knew of the Breach was what he had seen and been told, and he used that knowledge as best as he could. He was not the speculating type, the kind to sit and figure this and that. That was more Dorian’s speed, more Inquisitor Trevelyan’s speed, certainly. Not only because they were mages but because they were patient, bookish when they needed to be. Even Varric would be more suited to this task, Cullen couldn’t help but feel. He could at least put it in the work to find words for the things that that Cullen was trying to articulate, even to himself.
“That’s weird,” Eleanor remarked, as if feeling the same way. As if she knew there was more to say on the topic, but the two word statement that she’d uttered was just about enough to sum it up perfectly. And it was weird, at that. That two - what were they, realms? Planets? Dimensions? The longer she thought about it, the less she was certain she wanted to know. She couldn’t think of Cullen as an alien, though she supposed no matter what, that’s what he was, in a way. Could two distinct worlds be so similar that one could bleed over into the other in so many strange ways, small and large? And maybe it was only because they were so similar. If they were vastly different worlds, perhaps there would be no connection. No way for the streams to cross.
Part of her was horrified by it.
Part of her was glad they had.
“Cullen, if… if this thing does last years,” and in her head, it repeated - years and years and years - “what do we do?”
He reached out and touched her elbow, and there was a sternness on his face, a strength that Eleanor envied, and that she knew was why he was the commander. “We fight it, El. We fight it until it’s over, one way or another.”