Fear

I find Cole from DAI to be an immensely inspiring character, and one of my favorites from the series. This is a prompt response from a while ago, I don’t remember what the prompt itself was.

Fear, there was so much—fear, here. Cold, catching shroud of terror, pain pushing through, calling—

Cole sat in the corner, crouched with pale eyes peering through the crepuscular tower. It—ached, clutched at his guts, so much pain such a concentrated space, like drinking watered-down grog for months and then straight whiskey.

His eyes caught on the mage standing in the center of the circular room, staring blankly at the shadows. He’d been—a sailor, setting sail and sending shimmering spindrift shattered in his wake, until a templar had booked passage and caught him weaving fire between his fingers.

He misses the ocean and he misses her—three masts and the bowsprit they all called Victorious Lady Hannah, with her chipped churlish smile and brown hair rolling in waves over her shoulders. Sometimes while he’s lying on his cot in the tower he still feels the waves rolling beneath the ship, and all of his dreams are of the sea. He feels heavy with the ocean inside of him. It’s been two years since he saw the water, and his skin misses the taste of salt.

“Anton,” Cole says, and he appears to the mage, seeing the familiar flicker of fear-mixed-guilt, a private moment of pain put aside.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Cole,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. You miss her so much that you’d die to see her again. All you dream about is her, so why wouldn’t you go there forever? Oh merciful Andraste, help me, send me home.”

“Get back,” Anton stammers, sweat slick on his skin.

“Give me the courage to send myself home.”

Cole is crying, his grey-blond hair sticking to his tears, hand at his dagger. His voice—earnest, pleading, trembling, cannot be louder than the clamor of Anton’s pain and fear. They batter him, undulating waves like the sea, because everything about Anton is the sea, and he sees—

–standing on the forecastle and he’s yelling, high exuberant voices all around as the broadside roars out, one-two-three-four-smash! A spray of shrapnel and water laced with blood—

–first mate’s face fading, falling back into the deep, fragile flesh succumbing to the white-lipped wrath of the sea—

–cheers of his comrades as he spins a palmful of fire around his back, feeling it sear, bare skin alight and he laughs—

Anton is crying too, clutching the sides of his skull and he almost screams, wants to scream, wants the wraith that’s warily watching to go, or—

“You want to die,” Cole says, voice breaking, hardly gets the words loose.

“Yes,” Anton says, tears on his face glimmering in the fragile glow of moonlight from the window.

Cole steps to him, frees his knife, hand on Anton’s back pulls the mage close, and Cole pushes the blade deep between his ribs. Heart falters, blood pulses, spasm, and Cole holds Anton as life leaves him. The embrace lasts, Cole staring over Anton’s shoulder as the mage slumps against him. Blood blooms from Anton’s chest and spreads across Cole’s velvet coat. The pain—it pulses still but the beat here is banished, the swell of the sea gone from Anton.

“I was a monster before Rhys found me,” Cole says. He sits on a wall half-demolished by time, vines interwoven through the stones. He kicks the heel of one boot against the stone in rhythm with Varric’s heartbeat, which thunders just below the level of his consciousness.

“Hey, kid,” Varric says, laying a heavy hand on Cole’s shoulder. “You didn’t know it was wrong.”

“That’s not an excuse!” Cole yells, rage rushing through him, redirected wrongfully toward the dwarf. He kicks the wall one last time and pushes his face into his hands. “I can’t—become that again.”

“You won’t,” says Adaar, sat on the wall beside him. “You won’t. I promise.”

“You can’t promise that!” Cole says, voice breaking, ghost-pale eyes narrowed at the Qunari—

–lips on his, hands gripping hard his gold-plated horns, a whisper: “How about we do something more… primal?”—

Cole likes Varric because he is quiet, his turmoil trapped betwixt layers of stone. Not like Adaar, who wears his passion on the outside—everything a battle, every task touched with drama.

“You don’t know what I can be,” Cole says. “I can’t hurt anyone again. I need to help, I’m not—I’m not a monster, I can’t be a monster.”

Adaar’s mouth tightens and Cole can feel his anger. Frustrated by problems he can’t fix. Qunari are—sharp, tempers turbulent beneath their tepid calm. Given the option, they will always explode. Adaar shakes his head, scratching his white hair, sun glinting from his gold-plated horns.

“If Solas won’t bind me, I want Dorian to do it,” Cole says, meeting Adaar’s gold-crimson eyes. “Please, you can convince him, he—he whispers it to you as you’re falling asleep, he’s certain you never hear, ox-men sleep fast and hard—but you’re not like any other he’s met and he knows he’ll lose you but he loves you, he—”

“Enough! Woah!” Adaar leaps off the wall and stumbles when he lands. He pretends nobody notices the glances he and Dorian share, the way they hold hands under the table when they sit in the tavern.

 

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