In Fact, I Encourage It
Before noon, there was an argument.
“We need to seal off that tunnel!” Cassandra insisted. “However you got to Thedas from there - it shouldn’t be. If the darkspawn can use that -”
“How do we know it hasn’t always been there, Seeker? How do we know that the Blight didn’t start here and spread that way, instead of across the Fade?” Cullen argued.
“The Blight did not start here,” the Seeker said. “We would have seen signs long ago. The Archdemon was not spotted in our skies, after all.”
Cullen gave a long, deep sigh. “Cassandra. Please. I don’t want to argue this with you. I want to end the Blight. Not have drawn-out discussions about land routes between two worlds.”
“Commander, you cannot be that dense,” Cassandra slammed her hands down on the table. “Even if the Blight did originate here to take root only on the other side of the Fade, we need to ensure that that never happens again - in either direction!”
Pinching the bridge of his nose hard, Cullen said softly, “And don’t you think it would behoove us to have a link between the land where the Blight originated and the the land upon which we’re fighting it? The fact that we have to cross the Breach so often -”
“It will only allow the Blight to spread!”
Eleanor had gracelessly sat down in the corner, and was now resting her head firmly in her hands. Stroud had for the most part only listened, trying to get a sense of what these caves contained, what his Wardens could expect to face. But even he now looked exasperated. Others had been in and out throughout the day, but now only Stroud and Cullen, Cassandra and the Inquisitor, and Eleanor herself remained. Leliana - Divine Victoria - had been called away, and even Josephine had found herself inclined to do other things. It didn’t matter; she had only been keeping minutes and there were no minutes to keep. Ten in the morning to noon, Eleanor thought, the commander and Seeker bicker. Noon, broke for lunch. One in the afternoon, more bickering.
It wasn’t that late in the day yet, but if this continued, Eleanor considered leaving for lunch and not returning. Part of her felt that she should be there to support Cullen, to speak up for her home. The other, much larger part, wanted to go back to bed. To ask the Inquisitor to please bring her another one of those warm spiced drinks, but this time fill it halfway with whatever swill Bull had given her the night before. If she were drunk, maybe she would enjoy this. If she were drunk, maybe she would have the gumption to just get up and walk out. Hell, Dorian hadn’t even bothered to show. Maybe he was still snuggled up with the Qunari, the lucky bastard.
Evelyn was still on her feet, but barely. She was on the other side of the room, near the windows, looking longingly out onto the mountains below, the valleys. Eleanor could feel how badly the woman wanted to be anywhere but here, but this was, despite its anguishing nature, important. That was why Eleanor had stayed, after all.
“Commander Cullen, listen to me! If we block off the bridge between Thedas and the other side” - that was what they all kept calling it, The Other Side - “we will confine the Blight to one world instead of two! Dorian should be here, he should be hearing this. We have mages who can possibly sever this connection!”
“But Cassandra, if the connection has been there for ages, who knows what repercussions breaking the link will have! What if it is a link in a chain? What if it is meant to exist? Perhaps we should sever it, but not before it is studied! Not before we know what we’re dealing with!”
“I never would have thought,” muttered Cassandra, shaking her head, “that you, of all people, Commander, would be in favor of not going in with force. For our world’s safety. For hers,” and she pointed demonstratively at Eleanor, as though Cullen couldn’t have discerned her meaning without a visual clue.
“I don’t know what you have heard, Cassandra,” he spat her name with venom, “but contrary to your beliefs, I don’t think that we should go into this blindfolded! We don’t even know what this link is. If force is required, I will use it! But right now we don’t have enough information!”
“We have all the information we need,” Cassandra insisted. “Either the Blight spread from here to the other side, or the darkspawn on the other side can get to here from there, or both! If that is not enough information for you, Commander -”
“Shut up!” Eleanor was on her feet, and shouting. “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” she pressed her hands against her temples. “For Chrissakes, both of you,” she quieted down a bit now. “You’re achieving nothing. Fucking nothing. I don’t care if you don’t agree but you’ve been doing this for hours. My fucking home could be burning and you’re arguing about something completely fucking irrelevant. And you’re not even making any headway.”
They stared at her in stunned silence for a moment, and across the room the Inquisitor almost seemed to smile. Both Cullen and Cassandra opened their mouths, either to rebuke her or support her, but she cut them off with a slash of her hand. She had dug her hole this deep; she might as well keep digging.
“No. No, listen to me. Either you decide something - I almost don’t care what at this point - or you move the fuck on and come back to this later. But I can’t just stay here while you bicker. I need to go home. That’s my fucking job, isn’t it? Liaison? I can’t do that if I’m stuck here while you decide to cut this place off from me.” Her face softened and she clenched her fists. “Please.” Eleanor reached up and squeezed her forehead along her hairline. Her braids, now two days old, felt uncomfortably tight all of a sudden. She repeated, “Please.” And then, “Sorry.”
The Inquisitor pulled herself away from the window and said overtop of the table, “Don’t be sorry. It had to be said. I’m glad you were the one to say it.” Evelyn rounded the edge of the table and went to Eleanor’s side. “Come. Let’s take a walk. Stroud, I assume you have enough information to know what you will need. If you don’t, I encourage you to ply more information from these two,” she waved her hand at Cullen and Cassandra, “with hot pokers until they give it to you. In fact, I encourage it even if you have everything you need.”
“Of course, Inquisitor,” the serious of the Grey Warden’s words belied their humor.
“El - Ellie,” Cullen called out to her, but Evelyn stopped him.
“Commander, you’ll have your chance.” Evelyn offered her arm to Eleanor and she took it, and the two mages walked arm in arm from the War Room .
“I feel a bit bad about this, you know.” Eleanor was stretched out on a luxurious chaise lounge in the Inquisitor’s own quarters. She held a glass of wine in one hand, had the other draped over a railing. “But just a bit.”
Evelyn was sitting on her own desk, leaning back and propped up on one hand. holding her own wine with the other. “Don’t. The one thing that I have learned, running this Inquisition - so much as it can be run and so much as I am running it - is that these frankly powerful adults are prone to nothing more than bickering like children. So I have learned to butt my nose in where it doesn’t belong, because it either gets them caught in the act, or gets them to make a decision. In very rare circumstances it falls to me to make a choice but more often than not, you can tell which way they were leaning long before I ever stepped in.”
Eleanor sipped her wine, almost patted herself down for a cigarette before remembering she had accidentally relinquished them, along with her unused gun and several nutrition bars, when she had stripped off her bloody robes and scrubbed the much of the ravine, the Deep Roads from her skin. “I just wish…”
“What do you wish, Eleanor?” asked the Inquisitor, sliding down from her perch and coming to rest on the couch alongside the other woman, her feet near Eleanor’s head. “What would you do about this link?”
Eleanor sat up a bit to meet the red haired woman’s bright eyes. “What would I do? I… don’t know that my opinion is worth anything.”
“I could not disagree more. We’re talking about a connection between this place and a place that you call home, from which you are our only representative. I think you’re opinion means as much as anyone at that table downstairs, as much as mine, if not more. And even if that were not the fact of the matter, I believe that everyone’s opinion counts for something.” Evelyn reached out and rested her hand on Eleanor’s knee. “So tell me, Eleanor Redgrove. What would you have me do?”
Eleanor sat up, crossing her legs on the wide sofa. “Inqu - Evelyn. It seems like too much of a coincidence. Look at us. You and I. We’re sitting here, speaking. You and I, from how far apart, can understand each other. We’re both human. We’re both mages, which is strange by itself. As far as I know, this - this magic woke up in me either because of the Breach or because of the link. Which it was doesn’t matter. But if there’s a piece of that in me, who knows how many others from my home have that? Who knows what other connections our worlds share? That link… the fact that the Breach connected us so easily… I think that link has been there for a long time. Much longer than Cassandra realizes, certainly, maybe even longer than Cullen thinks.” She leaned forward conspiratorially. “Evelyn, I think maybe that link has always been there. Maybe it’s just been hidden for a very long time.”
A wry smile split the Inquisitor’s face. “You know, Varric said almost the same thing. And I believe him.”