All That's Left Now
The rain had begun to fall as Eleanor dressed again in her robes, kitted out with all kinds of supplies she hadn’t known remained at the barn after the soldiers’ had left: poultices and small daggers and stamina draughts for Cullen and Varric, which seemed to be some sort of primitive energy drink, insofar as she could tell, and small things like sewing kits and numbing herbs and whetstones, and they took them and divided them up amongst themselves. Eleanor found another small sash equipped with many more pouches than her own, and she wore it from shoulder to hip, to avoid getting in the way of the other. Dorian and Varric seemed to have innumerable hidden pockets and pouches, and Cullen’s belt had many bags to festoon himself with.
It was too, too odd to see him once more in the armour he had arrived in, all reds and blacks, and he looked older, somehow, more burdened, not by the weight of the metal and cloth, but by purpose. He had shaved his stubble and Eleanor had trimmed his hair, and he looked like a person she barely knew; he almost looked like a threat. She was glad he was on her side.
But Eleanor now felt so small. Even next to Varric, who stood just about four feet high, for the dwarf was broad-shouldered and strong. Dorian was tall and sinewy and glittering in his own robes, and Cullen was absolutely imposing, a wall of a man. And she was small and clad in cloth but for a few metal buckles here and there with her staff on her back and her gun on her hip. and she was both afraid and hoped that she blended into the background, became a non-entity, hoping that the darkspawn would just ignore her for these obviously more threatening targets. But only if it meant no harm would come to them as well.
She had the distinct feeling that that was absolutely not about to happen.
Cullen was carrying rations in from the kitchen; they would divvy them up on the way. He did pause to hand her a full thermos of hot coffee; how long it would stay hot, she couldn’t say. Not nearly long enough. None of them knew how long they expected to be down there, but Varric said it could be hours, or days, or more.
They brought enough supplies for a week, bedrolls and water bottles, and Eleanor had no idea how they were going to carry it all, but it was better to have it than not.
“Alright,” Cullen said, the sound of his voice alone putting him in charge, more so than his title, “Eleanor will drive us to within a mile of the ravine. Closer if all goes well. If not, if we encounter any darkspawn on the way, we ditch the truck and eliminate them, and continue on foot.”
Eleanor didn’t want to continue on foot, exactly, but she didn’t want darkspawn wandering through the Indiana countryside either. Though they may already be, she realized, and she silently cursed the Inquisition for taking away Cullen’s patrols. Who knows what damage they could already be causing? And then Eleanor cursed herself for not having a TV or radio anymore, and for neglecting the internet inasmuch as one could neglect the internet. Just how far had the Blight spread? She felt foolish now for not knowing.
Cullen hoisted a large sack of supplies over his shoulder. “All that’s left now is…” his voice trailed off and Dorian and Varric nodded. Eleanor cracked her knuckles inside her gloves. “Okay, Eleanor. Bring the truck around.”
They rode to the ravine in silence. Eleanor could not remember a time when she felt more strange than now, driving this old Chevy pickup truck while wearing elaborate garments quite literally not of this world. Her staff was in the back under a tarp. Cullen was next to her. Varric and Dorian rode in the back with all of their things, look as entirely out of place as she felt. But Cullen reached over and placed a heavily armoured hand on her knee, and she gave it a squeeze, an action that assured her all of this was real, while at the same time, pulling her further and further away from the reality she had once inhabited. This was an entirely different sort of reality, she couldn’t help but feel, a much more dire, painful reality. The blood on Cullen’s back had said so. The power in her veins said so, as had the ever more constant threat of death.
Eleanor took a deep breath and shifted down a gear, slowing the truck as they approached the gash in the Indiana soil.
Dorian and Varric leapt out of the back, less wet than Eleanor had expected they might be, probably thanks to some magic of Dorian’s. But it had not been foolproof, and the flatness of Dorian’s coif made him look a bit less noble than he typically did. He took it in stride now, the nearness of the situation silencing them all. They split up the food, as much as they could carry, and left anything that ended up being extraneous in the truck. It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t a long drive home, but if they exhausted their supplies while in the ravine, having a few bottles of water and some nutrition bars in the truck might just be the thing that got them back to the farm.
If they made it that far.
Eleanor adjusted her pack, her many pouches, and suddenly the elegant configuration of the staff on her back and gun at her side felt awkward and cumbersome. Everything felt awkward and cumbersome. She almost found herself wishing she were already at the point where supplies were running low just so she wouldn’t have so much weight on her shoulders. Or that they would go in, find a dead end, throw their hands up in the air and give the Inquisition a big, “Aw, shucks, Inquisitor, we did our best,” and call it a day, never worry about this again.
She pushed that last wish into the same place she had pushed the “boy I sure hope no one gets hurt” drawer in her mind, the one full of bullshit she kept telling herself to find the strength to keep going, despite that drawer being clearly and accurately labeled.
Pulling her hood over her head to shield her face from the rain, she followed Cullen as he began to trudge grudgingly toward the ravine.