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Though the darkness comes

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Dirth ma, harellan. Ma banal enasalin. Mar solas ena mar din.

Recovering her missing memory had been painful and even now the memories- the Tal-Vashoth mercenaries at the door blocking her entrance, the side entrance she scaled up to, walking in on Justinia’s terrified determined face, the blank-faced Wardens, the bright orb rolling to her feet, magic coursing through her as she scoops it up, sharp pain, so bright, she just wants to get away- are the sharpest thing she can see, everything else she knows drowning in the reliving that will not go away.

It had stolen these thoughts from her and now they and Nightmare are all she knows as she struggles to shove them back in to where they should have been.

Dirth ma, harellan.

“You drink it all in too fast and everything is too bright and why did it not speak elvhen to you too? It speaks to make us doubt ourselves, make us doubt each other, see each other’s worst pieces hidden away brought to light, but it spoke to you in the Trade tongue and not him. It used those words to hurt him, but it used that tongue to hurt you, and now you do not know what to ask, what to say.”

She opens her eyes. Cole is crouched beside her, peering at her anxiously. “I don’t think talking this out is going to help.”

“I could take it away if you like. It would stop hurting.”

“No,” she says sharply, sitting up too fast, her head swimming. He vanishes, spooked. She is alone on the balcony, but doubts he has gone far. “Ir abelas- I’m sorry, Cole, I did not mean to shout,” she says quietly, gently, like coaxing a halla to her hand.  He reappears, further away, eyes big.

“It hurt not knowing what had happened. But knowing is blocking out everything else. Which is worse? To know is better than to not. Our duty is to preserve, but we must question as well, da’len. We will never forget. I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.”

She pats the ground beside her, inviting him closer. It is easier to speak when eye level, but she does not trust her legs to stand just now. “Maybe you were right to think talking would distract me from what’s going on in my head.”

He shakes his head.  “I didn’t mean to see, I came to ask you something.”

“I think Varric’s better with answers than I am,” she says, pulling the blanket up around her. It is so much colder here in the south, but she cannot sleep without the sky above her, the air moving freely.

“He refused, I had to ask Cassandra. But I have to ask you too. You would be better. You’re my friend. Cassandra thinks of duty.” He looks solemn, scared.

“Cole, what’s wrong?”

“At Adamant, in the Fade, the demon tried to control me.”

“You fought him off better than most of the rest of us.” They had all put on a brave front, but they were terrified. She thinks of Hawke’s shaking voice as she laughs at the demon, her staff held only weakly in her grip as it mocks the death she leaves in her wake, the lover she left behind to help the Inquisition. Blackwall’s shadowed look as he tells them to ignore the monster. Stroud, complaining of the fear creatures they fought- Blackwall had seen spiders, and Stroud said they looked like darkspawn, and it was obvious the creatures formed themselves through the fears of those they fought. 

She wonders what it says about herself that she had seen elves. She does not know herself as well as she thought. (She told them she saw giant bears. Cole had thankfully been too distracted throwing the demon’s commands off to notice the lie, though Solas had looked suspicious.)

“I won’t become like it,” Cole says fiercely, pacing, rattled.  “Varric wouldn’t promise, but you have to.  If I become a demon, you have to kill me.”

“Cole- you’re not-” She doesn’t know how to reply, how to ease his terror.

“I won’t become something that hurts people.  Promise me you’ll kill me if I try.”

Small wonder Varric hadn’t agreed, she thinks, watching him pace. The dwarf called him ‘kid.’ Could she? She thinks of Nightmare, its laughter still echoing in her head. If Cole fell to be such a thing, she could. She’d die inside, his wide-eyed naivety and too-old too-odd compassion gone, but she could do it.

“Only if you promise me something,” she finally says.

“Yes.”

“You’re supposed to wait until I say what it is.”

“You want me to never make you forget, never let you forget. I can do that. Forgetting makes you hurt, won’t help you. I won’t.”

“Then I promise to kill you should you need it.” He never will, she knows. He’s becoming too human to be susceptible to turning, but is still too much a creature of the Beyond to be susceptible to possession. He’s proven himself, he just can’t see it.

“Good. Thank you. I didn’t like asking Cassandra, she felt sad, even as she promised. She pretends she doesn’t feel as much as she does.”

“We should see Solas. He might know of something that will help.”

“He could bind me,” Cole says with a frown. “He wouldn’t though.”

“He’d sooner chop off his head,” she agrees, using the railing to pull herself up, dragging the heavy blanket along with her, less worried about her state of undress and more worried that bending to pick it up would sending her crashing back down. “Let me find my pants and we’ll go see if he knows of anything else besides binding.”

“You could bind me.”

She has to keep from glaring at him, hopes the trip in Nightmare’s realm replaying in her mind is shouting over anything else he might pick up from her. “In my people’s tongue, my name is Freedom. Do you honestly expect me to know a binding spell, much less use one?”

"They named you Freedom and Peace, a hope and a wish for a better future away from the bad people. But there is hardship all the same. There is little safety in freedom, but less freedom in safety. Life is uncertainty,” he murmurs, eyes fading out of focus as they often do when he reads people. He lowers his head, hat shielding his eyes. “I want to be safe.”

“And we will find another way,” she says fiercely. “But if we cannot find it, if it turns out to be a choice between binding you to my will or the chance you may fall and have to be killed, I choose chance. You’d stop being you otherwise. And that is unacceptable.”