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Warmth

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When she was a child, before her first magic and first blood flowed down her thighs, there was a spirit in the forest she would visit when the first frost filled her lungs and turned her breath to perfect, pure smoke. No, perhaps not a spirit. Spirits can make new memories, can exist with thoughts of their own, can understand the living and speak to them.

This one, this vaguely piece together shadow, lived only in a set of words, only able to comprehend one sad moment, repeating themselves over and over. It was a ghost–a featureless memory locked forever into the earth where their bones turned to dust. Eurydice referred to them as Echo because their sobbing bounced off the slimy, smooth walls of the cave they haunted:

Cold, Mama! So cold! Mama, Mama! Please, I’m so c-c-cold!

She tried to find the bones of ‘Mama’ once, so Echo would not be so alone, but she never did. She never found any bones or remnants of life. Only the outline of a person at the mouth of the cave, curled on the floor and hugging their knees, crying forever and answering to no one, even when Eurydice sat by them and watched them. 

And for whatever reason, maybe because this is when they died, Echo only appeared during first frost, just before Eurydice could see the first snow coming over the horizon. She couldn’t find them otherwise; after the first night, when the snow was no longer untouched, they would disappear and only until next year would Eurydice see them or hear them again.

They would cry all the time and they beg for their ‘Mama’ without rest–and Eurydice found the only thing she could do, the only thing that would make them stop wailing, was to sit with them all night and to offer her warmth to them. Sometimes that would mean she would pretend to lay on top of them, other times she would give them her cloak, one time she brought with her the fur blanket she slept under and draped it over the spot they lingered on.

They would grow silent, she would hear their nails rack against the floor, and then they would sing: Warm. 

Eurydice would put her hand where she thought Echo’s might be and watched the first snow float down to the ground. The next day, she would wake up by herself, with the blanket placed over her body and her hair brushed from her face.

She did this for twenty-two years. The first time she didn’t, she was standing on the battlements of Skyhold with her cloak wrapped around her tightly, her lungs filling with cold, sharp frost that felt like a knife down her throat, her eyes on the horizon where white clouds advanced towards them. 

And she said, “I hope they’re warm…”

“They are. They remember you.” Cole’s knuckles brushed hers when he appeared, sitting on the rigid, jagged merlon, watching the clouds with her. “You gave them warmth. That’s what they remember. They have that and they have you.”

Eurydice blinked at him and then, instead of asking him to leave her mind as she usually did, she inhaled the frost again and nodded. “And I have them.” She whispered and brushed her knuckles against Cole’s, “Thank you…”