Just a Lot to Think About
Dorian had promised to keep looking, keep requesting ever more obscure scrolls, and Eleanor got dressed in snow boots and jeans, a heavy sweater and a heavy coat. She tucked her messy hair under a beanie, and stuffing her hands in her pockets, she made for the door.
Cullen was coming back from the barn; he had been talking with the newest selection of troops to see what, if any, time scale he could construct for the future. The commander trudged through the deep snow, saw Eleanor coming down from the porch, and in the growing darkness of early evening, he gave her a wave. She waved back and met him halfway, kissing his cold lips when he reached out for her.
“Where are you off to?”
“Thinking about taking a walk. Dorian ran some theories by me and I wanted to try and clear my head.”
“That bad, huh?” He brought a bare hand up to her cheek. Cullen was wearing a thin black jacket and Eleanor couldn’t imagine how he kept from shivering in the biting air. His cheeks were pink, though; some indication that the man was not as impervious as he pretended to be.
“Not bad,” she answered, leaning her face against his palm. “Just… a lot to think about.”
“Would you like to be alone?” Cullen asked. Eleanor tugged her ear with her gloved fingers, tucked it back under the band of her beanie.
“I think so,” she answered him, though his dark eyes and pink face had begun to sway her. There was too much on her mind, and Eleanor appreciated that he was aware enough of her to know that this was not the time to hold hands and wander through the snow. Though, she realized, that was something they hadn’t done. Oh, well, there would be plenty of time for that. Spring wouldn’t be around for a while -
But would there be plenty of time? What had Cullen learned?
What would happen once the Blight was ended?
Before it had seemed frivolous to even think of such a question. He had said the Blight could last years. Or dozens of years. But now, with one of his big hands on her cheek, the other reaching out to pull her in closer, was it so frivolous? So maybe the Blight lasted years. Maybe they were together for so long. What then? When there was no more struggle that would link their worlds? Would he go back to Thedas? Would… would she?
He kissed her tenderly on the forehead and his breath was warm against her skin as he said, “Go on, then. I’ll put on tea.”
If she had to, she might go back with him.
She just might.
Eleanor walked to the Breach, her heavy footsteps making long drags in the white snow, snow that looked blue in the winter gloaming. For the first time in a long time, there were no clouds overhead. The world seemed finally be satiated, and the sky was so deep and rich, dark dark blue fading to pumpkin orange along the rim of the horizon where the sun had not quite surrendered just yet. The stars peered down at her, familiar stars, and the moon was the thinnest sliver of a fingernail. Its bigness, its openness had never much frightened her, and she found the identifiable pinpricks of light almost comforting. This was her world, the world she knew, despite the larger, greener glint of light that hovered just overhead now.
Eleanor had never opened the Breach on her own; she didn’t mean to. But she let her eyes slip closed and instead of looking at it, she felt for it, tried to sense the magic to allow the Breach to exist. They had told her that the Breaches were born of an elven artifact - the same that made the mysterious no-place roads Dorian had mentioned? Or just elves using the magic that she knew? When she found it, found its power in the dark places in her mind, it felt different from her own power, felt older, felt more complicated. But it should, by rights. Her magic was new. Newer certainly than the Breach, but newer than Dorian’s, the first magic of its kind on this world. She thought of the letters from Leliana’s other Earthly agents; she had begun to correspond with a few, just to keep abreast of the situation. Had darkspawn been spied elsewhere? In the midwest, yes, and her agents hunted them down and slew them in a much more subtle way than anyone staying on the farm could have hoped to. Outside of the area? No. It seemed the Blight had not spread, that the ravine had only its known opening here and in Ferelden, and if there were others, the darkspawn were not using them. And they would be known just as soon as there were enough Wardens to properly investigate the network of caves that they had spied on their expedition. Had the Archdemon been seen?
They didn’t know.
It concerned her, concerned them all, because it would be hard to explain away, and because it reached so much further than the darkspawn could on foot. But somehow Leliana’s people were on top of that as well. She got the sense that some of the people were in high places - she got the impression that her agents, and the people that worked with them, had known about this for many more years than Eleanor had, and Eleanor also suspected that these people were much higher up in society than she, or at least much better connected. But that was the point, wasn’t it? Things like that made Eleanor realize that what she knew was not everything, was far from it, and in most moments, for it she was glad. But they had withheld nothing when she put her questions to them.
But none of them had mentioned being a mage. Was she truly the only one? Was that why she had been allowed - or, really, been made - to go down into the ravine? To come out on the other side and not immediately be ferreted back to Indiana? Why her? It was a question she asked herself at least once a day. Others here knew; that was not a secret and never had been. But, she reminded herself, here she was, standing under a Breach that was placed where it was because of the proximity to the ravine. To the Blight.
In truth, it didn’t matter why her. It was her. It had to be someone, perhaps, and it was her.
She withdrew her mind from the Breach.
Eleanor looked off into the distance. She pretended she could see the ravine, though it was many miles too far off to actually be seen, even on Indiana’s flat landscape. She imagined it as a gaping wound on the landscape, not unlike the scratches that had been dragged across Cullen’s back. It was a wound in the earth. An infection that had taken hold in what had once only been a dry scar. She thought of Ferelden, a land that had seen five Blights, five of these illnesses for some obscene span of collective years. Was that her own home’s new fate?
The darkness that hung the stars seemed to encompass her now, the last bit of orange having been completely bled from the sky. Night had taken hold around her, the only light coming from the Breach, the heavens, the warm, yellow lights in the windows of her home. They beckoned her as though they were the sun. And who was she to disobey?