When Hawke finally manages to summon a wisp to hover between
them, finally figures out the trick to it, Hawke laughs out loud. Startling in the
quiet of the Deep Roads. And watching the gentle light play over Hawke’s
profile, his face turning upward to follow the wisp, the curve of his lips, Anders can’t help an
Hawke reaches out with a tentative finger,
and that gentle light flares up and bursts into a tiny flame, threads of creation magic
collapsing into elemental and unraveling, singeing Hawke’s fingertip as it sputters out.
As first summoning attempts go, it could have been worse. And Hawke’s
smile is a little sheepish but still just as wide as Anders takes his hand,
soothes away the pain with a touch.
A line pops into his head. Passion’s changing fire… it’s a quote
from somewhere, but it takes him a moment to place it, to sort out which set of
memories that’s coming from.
There had been this sonnet he’d had to memorize for one of
the senior enchanters’ classes. Tevinter poet, but the right kind of Tevinter, which is to say, safely dead and inclined
to write cautionary tales about spirits corrupted by careless mages. Though
love I was, your passion’s changing fire has forged this spirit into cruel
Desire. Love poetry turned dry and dull and wrapped up in a lecture on the
importance of belief, of avoiding distractions. Spirits are
swayed so easily.
And he’s feeling easily swayed, here, now, miles below the
surface, far from any templar or anything to fight for or any kind of justice except the man beside
him and the way these simple lessons together make his eyes light up; and Anders has started
having nightmares about growing Desire’s horns.
Though you will find nothing of what I am about to suggest in any officially sanctioned Thaumaturgic text, I wager every mage worth their salt knows it to be true. With Orlais no longer meddling within our borders, I believe it is time to posit the theory that there are spirits that exist entirely outside of the Fade.
I do not refer to the necropolis, as the mortalitasi’s arts have been well-documented for a century, nor do I refer to the odd enchanted statue, as the Tevinter practice of binding a spirit to an object is as well known as their blood magic and no more complex than a simple fire spell. It goes without saying that I do not refer to spirits conjured by a mage, or called upon by a seer. And I must stress before continuing that I am not referring to possession. What I mean to suggest is this: there are creatures within the Fade as well as without that defy classification as either spirit or beast–chief among these animals are felis catus. Cats.
In my lifetime of research at the Grand Library, I have found no less than four hundred references to animals within the Fade, only six of which were explicitly described as cases of spirits transfiguring into animal form in front of an observer. Remarkably, two hundred and ninety eight of these accounts describe a creature either catlike or explicitly feline. If we were to apply these numbers generally, with an understanding that an infinity of journeys into the Fade either in dreams or otherwise remain undocumented, we can assume that three quarters of the creatures in the Fade that defy classification as spirits or demons are cats.
This raises two important questions:
How is it that what appears to be a living animal can survive within the Fade?
Why are cats so prevalent within the Fade?
The answer to both of these questions is deceptively simple: cats are not truly animals, but spirit beings passing through the Veil with ease. I suspect this is how one moment you can be sitting alone in a room only to find a cat has appeared out of nowhere, or how, as many have noted, cats appear to be particularly attuned to emotion.
There is precedent, if only in rumor, for my claims. In the most southern reaches of Ferelden there exist tribes who live only where the Veil is thin. These tribes, called the Avaar, supposedly keep giant talking beasts to guard their keeps. Now I ask you: what beast can talk? These creatures could be myth, of course, the Fereldans do so like their animals, but the implications are clear.
Before you dismiss me entirely, ask yourself this: where did cats come from? We have extensive breeding records of Mabari, oxen, and even chickens, yet not a single text in the entire Grand Library of Nevarra has a word on the breeding of cats. The only early reference I have been able to find are the journals of an anonymous Tevinter naturalist who recorded the appearance of “a strange four-legged beast with a long tail and shining eyes slinking out of the ruins of Arlathan.” The Veil has been thin there since Arlathan fell, and it is not unthinkable that a spirit, or some sort of spirit creature or creature spirit was able to pass through the weakened Veil.
I have no doubt that as soon as this paper is disseminated, there will be those who doubt and will attempt to shred my theory to pieces. I will attempt to refute the most likely criticisms here:
How do we know that a cat in the Fade is not merely a spirit who, when viewed by a mage, has taken a form they are familiar with? After all, the Fade shapes itself in tune to the person experiencing it through dream or other method. In short: is a spirit a cat, or a cat a spirit, if there is no one to observe it? Knowing we cannot possibly test this answer, I remind the reader that three quarters of observed animals within the Fade are cats. Surely, those who have given these accounts are familiar with other animals. Thirty-five of the accounts come from Fereldan mages–would they not see mabari rather than a creature they do not revere? My theory is that these spirits were cats all along–they had nothing to change into when a person viewed them, they simply kept their normal shape.
A colleague of mine attempted to refute my theory by asking why cats chase and eat mice if they are spirits–surely, she said, spirits need not eat. I remind the reader that our verifiable knowledge of spirits is miniscule. Perhaps all spirits eat if they are on the mortal plane. But my suggestion is not that cats are wispy things of the Fade that will disappear into smoke. I acknowledge they are creatures that live, breathe, and die. What I want to emphasize is that felis catus is a species unlike we have ever seen before: a living spirit.
I am certain in my conclusion: cats were not bred, they simply stepped out of the Fade and decided to stay. The great mystery is not how, but why. What lured these creatures out of the Fade, and why have they not returned?
- An excerpt from Of Spirits and Beasts by Basilio Ainsworth, Grand Enchanter of Nevarra, written in 8:77 Blessed