I Could Kiss You
“That’s bullshit,” Eleanor insisted, her pointer finger aimed at Varric, the rest of her digits clutching a can of beer. She sat sprawled out on the couch, one leg hanging off of the side, the other slung across Cullen’s lap. He was holding her foot with one hand, giving it gentle rubs from time to time, clutching his own beer in the other, elbow propped on the arm of the couch. He had a smile on his face and was shaking his head.
“I’d believe him, El. I wasn’t strictly there,” Cullen allowed, “but I was… there.”
Dorian sat in a soft armchair near the bookshelf, both legs thrown over the arm as he leaned a bit over the other. He was behind the couch, but Eleanor swiveled her head to look around when he said, “I wasn’t there at all,” he admitted, “but from what I have seen, well, I’ve been exposed to a uniquely high level of… what would you call it, Varric?”
“Weird shit,” said the dwarf, propped on an ottoman in the corner of the room near to Cullen’s arm of the couch. He took a long drink of his own beer.
“Ah, yes. That’s the one.”
“Hawke was something else,” Varric mumbled, dropping his chin to his chest and giving his head a small shake. “Something else.”
“What happened to her?”
There was silence.
“Oh,” said Eleanor, and she meant to leave it at that, but Varric went on, speaking slowly, choosing his words in a careful tone that seemed wrong for the dwarf.
“Hawke went into the Fade with us when we were dealing with Corypheus. For the second time, I mean. After what happened in Kirkwall, what happened with Anders… maybe she felt like she had nothing left to live for. Or - or maybe she felt responsible, Maker, I don’t… Hawke always felt too responsible for things.” Varric gave his head another shake. “Anyway, in the Fade, it was Hawke or Stroud, and Hawke let Stroud escape. We left her behind to fight. Alone.” Varric stared at his hand, as though if he looked at it long enough, something would appear in the grip of the fingers working back and forth over his palm that would give him the answers he sought, if there were any answers to be had at all. “Damn you, Hawke,” he said, just barely audible.
Cullen cleared his throat and raised his can. “To Marion,” he said.
“To Marion,” the three answered in kind, and drunk to her memory.
“You woulda liked her, Farm Girl. Woulda had a lot to talk about.”
Eleanor smiled and nodded. She had liked everyone else.
“Oh, no. No no no no no,” Cullen said quickly. “You two could never be in the same room together. That would just be a nightmare.”
“A fun nightmare,” Dorian chimed.
Cullen quickly turned his head and gave the mage a stern look.
“I hardly knew the woman!” Pavus insisted. “But she was fun.”
“Yeah. Yeah, she was,” said Varric. “I never got into so much trouble. And that’s saying something.”
Eleanor sat back, smiling, and let the three talk. She liked the noise, liked being able to have things go on around her while she could simply listen. She liked Varric’s stories, and, no surprise, he was good at telling them, even if she suspected they were largely lies. But then, weren’t all good stories? Eleanor wondered if maybe he would tell stories about this, about her one day; what lies and half-truths he would concoct. She didn’t think this string of months needed any more livening up, true or untrue, but she looked forward to hearing about it, after the fact. In the moment, she heartily welcomed stories about anything - everything - else. For whatever time she had left, before the Wardens forced the darkspawn out of the ravine, perhaps selfishly, Eleanor wanted to forget. She wanted to sit here with Cullen rubbing her feet, drinking in the afternoon, while Dorian and Varric shot smart comments back and forth, and forget.
And for a few hours, she did.
“I have a theory,” Dorian said, looking up toward the ceiling, and tugging on his earlobe. He was still seated in the armchair, but had gotten up once to refresh his drink, and then once again to retrieve an entire bottle of wine and all of the papers he had been using to collect his research on the rift, on the realities.
Varric and Cullen had gotten up a while back, leaving Dorian to his research, and Eleanor to a large pile of neglected books.
She put her finger along the spine of her current selection and closed the pages around it, turning to see Dorian now seated on the floor, surrounded by his own parchments and a few enormous codices open to this page or that, with strips of leather marking further places. She pushed her glasses up onto her hair.
“Hm?” Eleanor said, leaning over the back of the couch, carefully holding her place in her own reading.
“I think it was the First Blight?” he said, looking down once more, and tracing his fingers along some text or other in one of the enormous books.
“What was?” she asked, her attention now entirely focused on the mage.
“That closed the way between our world and yours.”
“Closed? Not opened?”
He shook his head. “I don’t…” he ran his index finger and his thumb along either side of his aquiline nose. “I think that… pathway was always there. I think it’s meant to be. And I think thirteen hundred years ago, when the Golden City turned black, something happened. Something cut the connection, either through the Fade, or directly between your world and mine. Because of blood magic, or the slaying of the god Dumat, I cannot say. Maybe it was a combination of all of these things, as was the First Blight.” He had been bowing over his papers, flipping them this way and that, but now he sat bolt upright. “My word,” he breathed. “That’s it.”
Eleanor dropped her book, the page forgotten, and came to sit on her knees beside Dorian, feet folded beneath her, eyes frantically scanning pages that, even if they held some unnameable secret, she would not be able to find from the words that she could not read.
“What’s it?” she said breathlessly, his enthusiasm bleeding into her.
He reached out, grasping her hands. “There have always been darkspawn in the Deep Roads, ever since the first few years of the First Blight. Even when the land is quiet, even when there is no surface Blight to speak of, the darkspawn are always there.”
She nodded; she knew all this. He and Cullen had told her all of this more than once, but had told her this very thing on the first night when had sat down at the kitchen table and talked.
“What if…” and then he sighed, dropping her hands. “No. Never mind. It doesn’t work.”
Eleanor slouched, falling over to one side, letting her feet stick out from under now. “Oh you can’t leave it like that,” she insisted.
He shook his head. “But the Archdemon… No. It doesn’t work. I had thought, perhaps the remains of the First Blight - not a new Blight, but part of the first that made it to your world - were trapped in the ravine all of this time, and the activity from the Breach, or all the rifts, had woken it back up, opened the door back up between the two worlds. That so much damage had been done to the Veil that an old, closed door was jarred back open, and the remains of the First Blight were spilt back out onto this land. But then, from where would the Archdemon come? Dumat was decidedly destroyed at the Battle of the Silent Plains.” He let out a deep breath and stooped forward again, looking defeated.
“But what if this is a new Archdemon?”
Dorian shook his head. “Well, clearly it is,” he agreed, not seeing where she was going with this.
“No, I mean: what if you’re right? What if the First Blight broke the bond between this world and Thedas, and that bond was broken for all these years, keeping the darkspawn on this side of the barrier away from Thedas, dormant or something, I don’t know, can they do that? Find someway to hibernate, or even just survive? And when the Veil tore or the Breach opened, it broke down that barrier, and the darkspawn reached an… an Old God.”
Dorian’s grey-green eyes locked onto hers.
“Eleanor. I could kiss you.”
“I won’t,” he grinned. “This does, however, imply something even more tragic.”
“The Blight is on both sides.”
“You’re correct about that. But that’s not what’s tragic about it.”
“It means,” he said, flipping shut a book with a loud thump, “that Cassandra was right.”