Poor Leonette Trevelyan. She’s been thrown out of the Fade, touched by the Maker, snubbed by the Chantry, and now taken over by an envy demon, all in the space of a month. And she’s got me hanging over her shoulder, being fascinated by everything.
In the last part of scrapbooking in Thedas, I found a codex entry that tells us Envy is a subtype of Sloth. More than a few people were confused by that, myself included - and, honestly, I’ve always been pretty confused by Therinfal Redoubt, too.
Well, Therinfal is done again, and boy, do I have thoughts. But let’s start out with the more general issue of why envy is a subtype of Sloth, of all things, before we get onto that.
“That was a Sloth demon?!”
So to begin with, I think it’s important to note that the codex entry for despair demons notes that they were also once misclassified as Sloth demons: the Chantry’s demon classification system, as seen in Origins, is hopelessly simplistic and has been repeatedly proven to be fundamentally useless. It’s probably easier to simply ignore the ‘5 Deadly Sins’ part of the category names and just call them types 1 through 5.
So. Reading the various codex entries, I think what our Type 3 (‘Sloth’) demons all have in common is that they’re basically emotion vampires. Rage, fear, desire and pride demons all feed by nurturing their respective emotions in the victim, but all three of the Sloth subtypes feed by draining the victim of something instead; their will to fight, their hope, their very memories and sense of self.
(There’s also hunger demons, but literally all we know about them is that they ‘do little but eat or attempt to eat everything they encounter, including other demons‘; I think they’re more flat-out cannibalistic than they are vampiric.)
So Envy is classified as Sloth because it drains its victim in order to prey on them rather than creating emotions in them. A desire demon feeds on its victims’ desires; an envy demon drains its victim. (A desire demon/envy demon teamup would be terrifying, now I think of it? Can spirits feed on other spirits? But I digress.)
But then… there’s the rest of it.
Scrapbooking in Thedas is following my canon worldstate playthrough, so it’ll bypass Therinfal altogether (when we eventually get there, that is). As such, let’s talk Therinfal.
This was the third or fourth time I’ve played Therinfal, and I think it’s the first time I’ve actually grasped what’s going on… and what’s going on is fascinating. Time will tell if I’m right, of course, but we might have a very sneakily-placed confirmation that mortals are basically spirits.
Let me back up and start from the top.
So what I was always a bit stuck on was what, precisely, Envy was doing. Obviously it’s trying to learn about the Inquisitor so it can become them, but neither Envy nor Cole seem to be actively possessing them - in fact, it’s repeatedly stated that Envy demons create copies of their victims, both in the demon’s codex entry and in the game itself:
Inquisitor: I’m sorry. An envy demon replaced the Lord Seeker.
Barris: Envy? Maker. Then the real Lord Seeker is caged or dead.
So Envy isn’t a Yeerk. It doesn’t possess you and puppet your body, as we might expect from DA demons; it’s more of a doppelgänger monster.
Which means it has to copy.
There’s a lot of confusion in the conversation with Cole about where, precisely, we are.
Cole: Envy is hurting you. Mirrors on mirrors on memories.
Cole: I’m Cole. We’re inside you. Well, I am. You’re always inside you.
Inquisitor: All right, ‘Cole’, can I get out the way you got in?
Cole: Yes, but I think you would die. It’s your head. You shouldn’t be out of it.
Inquisitor: Then how do I evict everyone else?
Cole: All of this is Envy: people, places, power. If you keep going, Envy stretches. It takes strength to make more. Being one person is hard. Being many, too many, more and more, and Envy breaks down, you break out.
Inquisitor: So if we keep moving in my ‘head’, we tire Envy into submission?
So we’re in the Inquisitor’s head, but we’re also inside Envy…?
The Inquisitor’s head which, conicidentally, looks like this:
Cole: Ideas are loud here. Make them louder. Think of water.
Also of note to this is that in the cut dialogue with Solas, he refers to what happened to the Inquisitor as ‘Envy’s dream’.
So we’re probably in the Fade, or somewhere very like it. There are two basic options available to us from what Cole and Solas say:
1. We’re in a section of the Fade which is ruled by the envy demon. In order to mimic the Inquisitor in the real world, it has to be able to mimic their memories, thought processes, etc - things which we know to be somehow linked to the Fade. So it recreates their mindscape in its own section of the Fade, and pulls the real Inquisitor’s soul (for want of a better word; the Thedosian word is actually spirit, which isn’t suspicious at all) into its realm so that it and its minions can copy them more efficiently.
We’re in the Inquisitor’s mindscape, which is in the Fade (or somewhere very like it). The envy demon has waltzed in and started messing everything up, and when Cole tried to help he ended up there too.
Or of course there’s always good old option 3: both. I think it’s this one, but I’ll explain why in a second.
The thing is that either one of option 1 or option 2 is pretty groundbreaking, because #1 implies that demonic sections of the Fade can be staggeringly more complex than we’ve seen so far (and also that spirits/demons can effectively become mortal, hi Cole) and #2 implies that mortals are interacting with the Fade on a subconscious level constantly, not just when they’re asleep.
So let’s talk option 3. Option 3 runs something like this: We’re in the Inquisitor’s mindscape, which is in the Fade, but the envy demon has broken into it and is taking it over as though it’s a section of the Fade that’s up for grabs. Mirrors on mirrors on memories, Cole says. If we assume that the real memories are inside the Inquisitor’s… physical form, or soul, or something, then the first set of mirrors would be spirits playing around with those memories in the mindscape - and the second set would be Envy copying and twisting those spirits to form its own version.
When the Inquisitor evicts it from their head, they don’t do so physically; Envy was never physically in their body, because Envy doesn’t physically possess its victims. They evict its… I’m trying to avoid the word ‘spirit’ for obvious reasons… from their mindscape/Fade section, and Envy reverts to its demonic form because it’s shed the Lord Seeker’s form but hasn’t managed to grasp theirs. Which tallies with the codex entry:
This transition is when Envy is weakest, for it is vulnerable as it moves from body to body, slavishly copying the habits of the old identity until it finds another mortal to mimic.
But… again, this would mean that there is a section of the Fade which is the Inquisitor’s mindscape. And that would mean that there’s a section of the Fade for every self-aware mortal, and presumably many non-self-aware creatures too.
And where we go with that, I just don’t know right now. Though I’m fairly sure it drops a huge amount of fuel on that ‘all mortals are basically Human!Cole’ theory.