The night was cold.
Lady Inquisitor Lavellan sat up straight and lit the candle for the second time. Long journey from the Winter Palace had her exhausted, but she could not sleep. It was not the cold - something else.
She picked up an envelope from her desk. New reports from scout Harding. Good, loyal Harding, she is now somewhere out there, keeping vigil by the campfire. Thinking of her brought comfort.
“Freckled hands fondling silk, rough hair. Close to the ground. Arrow astray - alone, but hopeful. She always comes back.”
Lavellan started. Her elbow hit something heavy on the desk; the sound of glass breaking into pieces did not follow as Cole swiftly caught the object mid-air. He placed it back where it belonged, then sat beside it on the desk, slender feet dangling just above the soft carpet.
“I didn’t want to scare you.”
She sighed. “It’s alright, Cole. Thanks for saving… whatever this is.”
The spirit cocked his head, staring at the statuette he had saved. “Josephine brought it here,” he noted. “Warm hands hugging cold glass, small silver shavings slipping, settling, staying on her fingers. It’s still, but it’s alive. She wanted to make you happy.”
Lavellan looked at the statuette in amusement. It depicted a hart, one of those some Dalish clans bred for sale and help. Harts were easier to tame than halla though not as intelligent, and some elderly of the People claimed they made elves much too similar to shemlen. The statuette was indeed encrusted with silver; it glittered like snow, entwining into delicate ornaments.
“Oh Josie. Always trying to spoil me," Lavellan chuckled.
“She knows you’ve been crying a lot. She wants to help but doesn’t know how.”
The silence was a little awkward. Cole watched the moon, and Inquisitor watched him. His eyes were empty, two pools of moonlight with not a single thought clouding them.
“I thought you went back into the Fade,” she finally said. Cole rocked slightly from left to right, shifting his weight from one arm onto another.
“I will,” he answered. “I’m needed where pain is, and it’s here. So I’m here.”
“Oh… right.” Lavellan looked down at her shoulder and the loose sleeve of the nightshirt that was covering it. “The mark is gone.”
“Yes.” Cole smiled. “I can read you now, that’s why I’m happy. You were there and not, and now you’re real, you’re you. But it is also sad. It hurts a lot. Others don’t hurt that way.”
He reached to touch her shoulder. His fingers were lighter than the air and softer than fabric. She thought she would be afraid of him now, but this touch was unexpectedly very comforting. Like an old wound that was aching has suddenly gone numb.
“The dirt will not feel same again,” Cole whispered. “Small fingers digging, dragging. Don’t touch them, da’len, they bite. Hot, angry tears; hot hands, red spots where the ants bite them. They were only defending their homes but still, it hurts. The elves also protect their homes. Aravels creaking in the wind, wheels pressing into the ground. We must go now, da’len. They didn't think it was someone's home. Hot, angry fear, eating them from inside like fire. Hot, angry flame flooding the forest. They were wrong. They need to pay.”
His fingers glowed lightly. The Inquisitor gulped, feeling her cheeks starting to burn. “Stop it.”
“Blood glistens in the sun, stinks, sticks, stays on your hands. The village burns, the forest burns. Pain sharp, shocking, shattering. The mages are scared, the templars are angry, and in the middle, blood. And you. Herald of Andraste, hymn heavy like an armor. Knife-ear is a knife-word. There are masks behind faces. They hate you but they won’t let you go.”
She wanted to stop him and changed her mind. It was not like she expected. Sharing pain with Cole was not like sharing pain with anyone else. He was not a real person, nothing stayed with him, nothing stained him. When he talked, she felt lighter, felt pain and guilt lifted from her tired shoulders and peace crawling in, gradually, word by word.
“The mark will fix it, fix everything. Varric doesn’t want to blame the woman he loves, so he blames himself. Red lyrium sings to him, sings to you. Scarlet, scary, scarred. The warden says he’s not one, his guilt is heavy, voice trembling. You pity him but he doesn’t want it. The father is a blood mage; there is his son in someone else’s house, drinking himself to sleep. You are my only friend, he says. You miss him. Vivienne is cold, but inside she’s broken. Sera isn’t broken but feels like she is. So much pain, anger, fear - why me?.."
He was right. She could not fix everything. Perhaps certain things were not at all meant to be fixed.
And it felt easier. And it did not hurt.
“He stares at you when you sleep. The Wolf and his thousand faces. They paint him with six eyes, but he wants yours, too. Without him you’re the hero, leading the way, in fear but feared. With him you’re fragile like a feather, flickering, flipping, floating in the sweet air. It feels good but it’s not. Dirthara-ma harellan, ma banal'enaslin. Mar Solas ena mar din.”
Lavellan gasped. Small glistening tears filled her eyes and ran down her chin: mute, silent manifestations of liberty. Cole brushed her shoulder. His magic numbed the pain and eased the breath.
“It wasn’t your fault,” he continued. “You were vhenan, his heart, stolen but separate. He carved it into your hand. He never loved anyone but himself. He betrayed you.”
The Inquisitor smiled bitterly through tears. “I thought you like Solas.”
“Solas likes spirits. He likes me. That’s why he’s calming, clearing, comforting. But it’s not me. He hurts people. He hurts you. You’ll make him stop.”
“Thank you, Cole.” She paused to swallow the tears. Her cheeks now bore two silvery traces of grief. “I think I’ll be… be going to bed now.”
“Dreams are silent, sleepy and soft.” Cole gazed at her one last time before turning to bathe his face in moonlight. “You like the Fade. Only it can be sad to wake up. I’ll stay and guard your dreams.”
Lavellan nodded. “Yes. Stay with me.”
She returned to bed and pulled the wool blanket up to her chin. The spirit settled on the edge of the mattress, glance still on the moon.
“Will I forget that you’d been here when I wake up?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered softly. “But it will feel better.”
The night was cold. She slept.