Halamshiral was the same as it had been during the ball. Tama found this to be disappointing, for an empire that boasted of its own unpredictability and grandeur— she much preferred the countryside, she decided, although Serault was known to be… strange. There was a scenery that could change on a whim, and her mother its master (in a manner of speaking).
In comparison, Halamshiral was simply a castle whose lighting changed for the season.
Nonetheless, she arrived early to meet with Vivienne who would have had to arrive hours before anyone. She might have preferred to err on the side of fashionable lateness, if it meant that everyone else was already there, but she couldn’t pass up the chance to show up before Eamon. Rumours were already circulating about how poorly she took the news of the Council— it was her humble opinion that she’d barely made a face, but bloody everyone expected the oxman to rage— so no doubt it would help her to appear eager to begin.
Or eager to get it over with. The castle was predictable but the people were obnoxiously fickle.
She couldn’t help but linger in the garden, once everyone was settled in to the Inquisition’s space. Vivienne was ankle deep in meetings and preparations, convening with Briala as to how the day should pan out. It gave Tama some free time to simply… breathe. Soon she would have to put on a proper outfit and fix her hair into something that would make the humans see a fashionable general rather than a raging Qunari, and she would have to watch how she looked at people and be careful greeting her friends or showing too much emotion (a mage and an ox).
“You don’t have to worry so much,” said a voice to her right. “You’re better at the Game than these people.” Tama started, but only because she’d been away from Cole for so long; without him there to narrate her emotions, she’d almost forgotten she felt them at all. She turned and hugged him wordlessly, because the brilliant thing about him was that words weren’t always necessary. “I am happy to see you, Tama,” he told her with a smile so big she could hear it.
“Still working on emotions?” she asked, tipping his hat up and brushing his hair away from his eyes. He probably still didn’t strictly need his vision to see, but it was a habit at this point. The day he’d become some sort of human-spirit hybrid had been a day of discovery and experimentation. Feeling things beyond compassion, and having those feelings linger without twisting his nature, was an altogether new experience.
“Vivienne says that if I name what I feel then it will get easier to process it,” he explained. “She… doesn’t like it when I say it out loud, though.” He looked a bit sheepish but she waved him off. It was well and good for her to know, anyway.
“Is that where you went? Off with Divine Victoria?” she asked, mindful of the few servants milling about. Cole nodded, swinging his legs and tapping his heels against the soil container they were sitting on.
“She wants to make me her Left Hand— she says that I’m like Leliana because I make people nervous and no one can lie to me, but I’m also soothing and it will be good for her Left Hand to kill less people.” There was Vivienne’s precise logic in that— the first mage Divine had to watch her reputation carefully, and choose her allies wisely. The gentle Justinia might have been able to employ the ruthless, but Victoria had to present geniality on all sides.
“And how would you feel about killing political enemies?” Tama asked carefully.
“I don’t think she wants to kill people,” Cole offered with a shrug. “She says she played the Game for years without causality, so I would only have to kill people that I thought were too dangerous.”
“Well I’m glad to see the two of you getting along,” she decided. She wasn’t sure how Cole would fare being the Left Hand, but if he managed to coax some of Vivienne’s enemies onto her side with his healing, then perhaps the details could be ironed out peacefully as well.
“She understands me, I think,” he mused quietly. “Maybe better than anyone, in some ways.”
“Oh?” By the end of their battle with Corypheus and especially after Cole had chosen to explore a more human side of himself, Vivienne had certainly warmed up to him. Perhaps she trusted him more when he gave up the Fade, or simply got used to the idea of him being unique in all of Thedas and most certainly not out to trick anyone into giving up their body. Having one of his own certainly helped.
“I have so many friends, but eventually everyone has to leave,” he explained. “And I kept having this ugly feeling when I thought of it, how everyone has someone else as well: like you and The Iron Bull, or Sera and Dagna,” he told her.
“Lovers?” she asked, and he nodded.
“Sometimes. Other times it would be journies that they had to take without me, or that everyone was moving on and I was staying still. Before the Inquisition I only had one friend to lose, but I suddenly had many that were leaving. It’s hard to see so many people go— Vivienne told me it was jealousy.”
He tapped his foot a bit harder, but seemed otherwise fine. “Jealousy?” she prompted, trying to sound a little less worried. Futile with the boy who could read her mind, but an effort nonetheless.
“I didn’t like how it felt. I was angry about something that should have made me happy— I want everyone to be happy, but I’m afraid that in the end I won’t be.” Tama reached out and he leaned against her wordlessly. “Vivienne understands that. Everyone thinks she does all her work for herself, but she only does it because she knows she can change things to be better. Bastien had to move on without her, and being the Divine is very hard. She’s afraid to be lonely, but she won’t stop trying to keep everyone safe.”
Tama sighed against his head, missing her friend fiercely. All attempts to visit her had been thwarted, and she wondered if this was why. “I think that’s something you’re not supposed to tell me,” she said.
“I know, but you can help,” he said and she smiled.
“What about you?” she asked, mindful that he had turned the conversation from his feelings to Vivienne’s.
“It is lonely being me, but not always. Vivienne understands, and I try to remember that no one is avoiding me. If I miss someone I can visit them,” he said. It sounded like repetition and she wished she’d been able to track him down sooner. He seemed to be avoiding everyone too, though he was much better at it.
“Everyone misses you too, Cole,” she told him, taking his hat off entirely and setting it beside her. He smiled but didn’t respond, the clicking of his heels the only sound as they watched soldiers and servants alike rush around to get things ready for when the dignitaries arrived.
“Vivienne also said that if I become the Left Hand, I have to dress better,” Cole added. Tama laughed, having to cover her face to do so because she was beginning to see more masks in the crowd.
“I’m sure she could turn you into a properly dashing spy,” she said. She believed it too— if anyone could make Cole look court-ready, it was the Divine.
“I don’t think so,” he said with a shrug, “but it will be fun to try.”