Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 85
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂, Cullen ♂, Sebastian ♂, Leandra Amell ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Goats, nonsense, goat-shit on the nice clean floor, accusations of marriage
Notes: WHOSE GOAT IS THIS? WHY IS THERE A GOAT?
No one actually kept goats, in the city of Kirkwall. Still, you could buy goats, sometimes, by the docks, or in the market outside the city that served the surrounding farms. Most of the goats sold were to people who meant to turn them into food, but Fenris had other intentions. He glanced around, confusedly, at the goat pens, before a tall man with a huge hat approached.
"What kind of goat you looking for, elf?" The man turned his head and spit into the dirt, nearby, still chewing something fairly foul-smelling. "And who you buying for? Don’t think I’ve seen you around, before."
"I… er…" To say Fenris was out of his element would be an understatement. Maybe he should have brought Aveline along for this. She seemed much more goat-savvy than he was. Which was not at all. "I am in need of a goat. For a dowry. A dowry goat." He nodded and straightened his shoulders, determined to at least look like he knew what he was talking about. "For one of the Messeres Hawke."
"Oh, the Fereldan nobles! Yeah, I heard of them! Somebody finally getting married. That’ll be some party. You sure the family’s got all their meat needs lined up? Could point out I do more than just goats, out here." The merchant gestured toward a particular goat, solid white, and slightly fluffy. "I’m suggesting Tildy, over here. All-white, female, no offspring. Perfect dowry gift. If you want the whole dowry package, I can throw in the three sheaves of wheat, and have it done up and delivered any day after tomorrow. It’s good to see folks hanging on to the old traditions, in a new place!"
"Dowry… package," Fenris said, not quite able to hide his wide-eyed panic. "Yes. Of course." Aveline had mentioned that, hadn’t she? What would have happened if he’d shown up with a goat and no wheat? Would that have been an insult? Was three the proper number or was Artie worth four? Fasta vass! Best to trust the good goat-salesman, he supposed. "Could you have that sent to the Hawke Estate? To Leandra Hawke?"
The goat — Tildy — brayed in a way that didn’t sound welcoming, and Fenris narrowed his eyes at her in warning.
"Oh! Is it the Hawke girl getting married? I thought you were sending it for one of the boys. That’s just sweet. Youngest first." The merchant smiled indulgently. "I’ll set everything up. It’s been a while since someone’s been both traditional and well-off enough to buy a goat for that, but it’s not my first dowry. Now, there’s just the matter of coin…" The merchant quoted a price that would have been utterly outrageous to any of the refugees still living in Lowtown, or worse, Darktown.
Fenris swore under his breath as he fished out his coinpurse, gauntlets clinking against gold as he counted. Venhedis. This goat had better fart rainbows at that price. The merchant took his money with a gracious smile, undeterred by the sour look on Fenris’s face. He didn’t hear Fenris mutter that the goat wasn’t for Bethany.
Bethany stepped out of the kitchen to see Bodhan leading a goat down the hall. "That’s a goat," she remarked, mouth full of cheese. "Why is there a goat, dressed in lace and ribbons, shedding grain all over the hall? Is this Cormac’s fault?" She didn’t wait for an answer. "Cormac? Why is there a goat?"
After a few moments, Cormac appeared on the balcony, in a dressing gown, a bottle of wine still in one hand. "Goat? I don’t know anything about a goat…"
"It was delivered for your mother," Bodhan clarified. "I was going to put it in the garden, until she tells me what to do with it."
"That’s a goat." Anton had wandered out of his room, to see what the noise was about. "There’s a goat in the hall. Nope, I’m going back to bed."
"If you put it in the garden," Cormac pointed out, "I bet it’ll eat the topiary."
"Well, then be sure to point it in the direction of that fuckawful tree," said Anton. "Bodhan, do we know who sent the goat?"
"Not a clue, Messere."
Mintaka wandered out of Anton’s room, nose twitching. He snuffled at the goat’s rump, earning him a hoof in the face and a scandalised bray in reply. Mintaka whined and looked at Anton, who shrugged.
Bethany shook her head and finished her last bite of cheese. "I’ll go get mum," she said, padding towards Leandra’s room. "Mum! There’s a goat here for you!"
Leandra bustled into the room, half dressed for her lunch with the Seneschal’s wife. "What? A goat? Why is there a goat?"
The goat made goat noises and stomped its feet against the tile, before crapping on the floor. It turned its head and nibbled on the wheat draped over its back.
"I’m so glad Artemis left home," Cormac muttered, rubbing his face and trying very hard not to laugh.
"Goats… wheat… This sounds familiar. We lived in enough farming villages." Leandra blinked at Bethany. "Is this Sebastian proposing to you? No, he’s not Fereldan. Do they do the goat thing here? It wasn’t even that popular, back home… It wouldn’t be Ser Cullen, would it?"
Anton barked a laugh at that image. "Cullen wouldn’t get me a goat!" he said, but his grin faded as he thought about it. Cullen was many things, and two of those things happened to be ‘traditional’ and ‘awkward’. "Oh Maker. Cullen would get me a goat." His face turned pale as he stared at the hoofed, crapping creature in the middle of the hall. "If Cullen is proposing to me via goat, I will rid him of his testicles and flee to Antiva."
Bethany had a hand over her mouth, muffling her giggles. "Best start packing your bags, brother-dear," she said. "Or shopping for a dress!"
Anton swore and stormed out, the door swinging behind him.
The walk to the Gallows was not a short one, even by way of back-alleys and shortcuts, but Anton arrived at Cullen’s office, still fuming, having slogged through a bit of sewer, to be sure he wouldn’t be stopped at the gate. He threw open the door and elbowed his way through the crowd of recruits around the desk, slamming his hands down hard enough to make the stacks of paper jump.
"Did you just send my mother a goat? Did you just try to propose to me with a goat?" Anton growled, trying very hard not to shout in front of all these people.
Cullen blinked at Anton, stylus still held aloft from where he’d been gesturing with it. "I… no?" he said. "Should I have? Do you want a goat?"
"No, I do not want a goat!" Anton hissed. So Cullen wasn’t proposing to him. That was a relief. Yes. Of course it was.
"…very well. Then I shall not get you a goat." Cullen looked no less terrified or confused.
"Thank you." Anton straightened, hand smoothing his hair. He offered an awkward smile to the recruits gathered around and to — oh, Maker — the Knight-Commander.
"I am so glad you interrupted our meeting to establish this, Messere Hawke," Meredith with a tight smile.
"Forgive me, Knight-Commander," Anton smoothed his smile. "It was a family emergency. Surely you understand. I’ll just…" He cocked his thumb at the door, backing toward it. "Lunch, tomorrow, Cullen?"
"Er, lunch. Yes. Lunch. You should wait downstairs, maybe?" Cullen suggested. His eyes darted between the Knight-Commander and Anton, and then he took a deep breath. "Should I have proposed to you without a goat?" The words all ran together, and Anton was already halfway out the door.
Anton stumbled, but winked. "Not in front of your boss!" It wasn’t really an answer. But, that sounded like Cullen proposing, or proposing to propose. Which… that was ridiculous. Wasn’t it?
"Hello, Sebastian. I’m not interrupting, am I?" Bethany indicated the candlelit statue of Andraste Sebastian knelt in front of.
The goat incident had been terribly funny until Anton had returned and primly told her the goat hadn’t been from Cullen. Everyone had looked at her next, Mum’s eyes hopeful, and Bethany’s laughter had died out.
"Never." Sebastian rose to his feet, his smile adoring.
Oh dear. He had sent that goat, hadn’t he?
"We had an unlabelled dowry goat arrive at the door, today. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you? Does Starkhaven even have a dowry goat tradition?" Bethany smiled like she did when she meant to kill someone, tipping one hip forward as she studied the tapestry hung above the candles to one side.
"A dowry… what?" Sebastian blinked, utterly confused. "I can’t possibly have heard you correctly. Did you say ‘goat’? I assure you Starkhaven’s dowry traditions, insofar as they exist, generally consist of dishware, jewellery, and gold." He paused and eyed Bethany. "I also take exception to the idea that I would have sent such a thing unlabelled and unannounced. I assure you, my dear, if I propose, you will be the first to know."
Sebastian took Bethany’s hands, and the adoring smile returned to his face.
"Well, there’s still a goat shitting on the floor, all done up in lace, with wheat tied to it. And we still have no idea who sent it." Bethany paused and ran her thumbs over Sebastian’s knuckles. "And, yes, we’ve already thought of Ser Cullen. It seemed like a terribly Cullen thing to do."
Sebastian chuckled. "It does, at that," he said. "But your next thought was that it was from me? What about your other brothers?"
Bethany had the sudden thought of Merrill getting Carver a dowry goat, and she had to bite her lip against a snicker. That would be worth the goat’s weight in gold.
"What about Cormac?" Sebastian suggested. "He and Anders seem to be —"
Bethany did laugh at that, covering her mouth with her hand when the sound echoed through the Chantry. "Maker’s breath," she said. "The sky would fall, first. Unless Anders sent the goat as a joke, which is always a possibility." A strong possibility, now that she thought about it.
"I don’t know what you’re drinking, but I want some," Cormac said to his sister. Anders? Sending him a goat? No. That— wait. The chestnut blossoms. "Hold that thought," he muttered, heading for the cellar door.
He only made it about halfway down the stairs, before the shouting started. "Anders! Anders, did you send my mother a fuckdamned dowry goat? Is this you getting back at me for the flowers?"
After a few minutes, Anders appeared at the other end of the wine cellar. "A what? What are you shouting about?"
"Come upstairs and tell me if this is your fault," Cormac demanded, pointing to the door.
Anders muttered something about the fact he was wearing a nightgown, but headed up, all the same. He just couldn’t seem to sleep decent hours, with the clinic as busy as it had gotten. "There’s goat shit on the floor. Why is there goat shit on the floor? It’s a good thing Artie moved out."
"See, this is what I am asking you. Is it your fault there’s a shitting goat in my house?" Cormac asked.
Anders looked at Cormac as though he’d grown a second head. "Oh yes," he said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Justice and I thought that there was no better way to promote ‘mage rights’ than with a shitting goat in lace."
The goat brayed in reply, twisting to chew at the lace around its neck.
"On second thought," Anders said, "maybe I should send one to Meredith."
"You know Cullen would end up cleaning that up," Anton pointed out. "So, please don’t."
"Okay, I know this is probably not going to help, but Artie’s really good at puzzles. We have a goat with no origin. Maybe I should get Artie over here to examine the goat?" Cormac shrugged. "I mean, after somebody other than me gets the goat shit off the floor. I’m the heir. I’m not cleaning goat shit."
"You don’t even want to be the heir!" Bethany reminded him.
"Don’t we have servants?" Anton asked. "I’m pretty sure we have servants."
"Bodhan, I need two things. A messenger and someone to clean up the goat shit. Can you make that happen?" Cormac asked.
"Yes, messere." The dwarf bowed and left, thrilled to finally be out of the company of the goat.
Artemis squinted down at the slip of paper in his hand, then at the messenger, then back at the paper. A message from Cormac in the traditional, flower-free way? Had to be serious.
"We have a goat," the note read. "We don’t know why we have a goat. HELP!?"
Then again, maybe not. Artie opened and closed his mouth a few times while the messenger watched him expectantly. "This is all my brother sent?" he asked.
The messenger nodded. "Does messere want to send a reply?" she asked.
"I think this is something ‘messere’ needs to see in person." He turned and called for Fenris.
Artemis neglected to explain the reason, but they were headed to his mother’s house. Fenris wondered if that meant the goat had arrived. Yes, this would be a joyous occasion, and one he would use to declare his intentions. His already fairly obvious intentions, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that he had to prove he meant it.
Bodhan answered the door and led them into the front hall, where the family stood around a lace-draped goat, still bearing wheat.
"What the fuck is this?" Cormac asked his brother, gesturing at the goat with both hands. "I mean, it’s obviously a dowry goat, but it’s not Cullen or Sebastian, and we have no idea. No offence to the elves, but they’re elves, and this is kind of… not an elfy thing to do. Creepy rural Fereldan traditions don’t usually go with northerners or the Dalish."
Artemis blinked down at the goat and the wheat it was shedding onto the floor. "That is… definitely a goat," he said, nonplussed. "And you thought I would have the answer to this, why? Because of all my goat-related expertise?"
Anton snorted, and Artemis looked at him.
"Maybe Cullen —?"
"No, not Cullen," Anton sighed. "Though I wonder what it says that that’s everyone’s first thought."
At Artie’s shoulder, Fenris fought to keep his ears from twitching. "Not an elfy thing to do?" he asked Cormac, glaring in the direction of the distinctly de-fluffed brother.
"Am I wrong? Is this the kind of thing you would do?" Cormac shrugged. "I don’t know anything about Tevinter dowry traditions. Did we get that from you guys?"
"I went to Aveline, who was both Fereldan and once married, for advice. She informed me this was the correct offering to make, if I intended to … declare my intentions toward Artemis." Fenris’s ears were definitely twitching, now. He could feel them. He bowed to Leandra. "Lady Amell, I wish to court your son, with the intent that he should be mine for as long as it suits him to be." Any other declaration, he’d decided, sounded a little too much like proposing slavery, which was most assuredly not his intent. "I realise we are already living in the same house, but I… thought … an official, traditional declaration, in the Fereldan manner might be in order."
The twitching would not stop, and Fenris was relatively certain the tips of his ears had turned colour. He was surprised the tips of his ears hadn’t spontaneously combusted, yet. How had he thought this was a good idea?
"Fen," Artemis breathed, unsure how he was even able to say that when his jaw wanted to drop to the floor. He’d always thought the goat dowry an odd tradition, but this was quite possibly one of the most awkwardly sweet things anyone had ever done for him.
Fenris couldn’t quite look at Artemis, not yet, his eyes still glued to Leandra. He was giving her the full force of his puppy eyes, though he didn’t realise it.
Leandra’s hands fidgeted with her only partially coiffed hair as she struggled with a response. The goat nipped at her sleeve, and she took a step to the side. "That is… very noble of you, Fenris," she said.
"You sent a goat, so you could propose to my brother?" Cormac stared for a long minute, before stepping in and throwing his arms around Fenris. "You fucking idiot. That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, in my entire life, but also the most ridiculous." He laughed and ruffled Fenris’s hair before stepping back, amid a flurry of shoving and slapping from the elf. "I’m glad for you. I’m glad for him. But, you remember what I told you, after the last time I took you to see Feynriel." He wouldn’t repeat that in front of his mother, but he knew Fenris remembered what he was talking about.
"Should I buy you a nice dress?" Bethany asked Artemis. "I’m sure you’ll make a lovely bride."
"Make sure you get him one of those white lace veils, so I haven’t got to look at his stupid sulk-face every time someone points out he’s married an elf," Anton added.
"The only ‘sulk-face’ I make," Artemis huffed, "is when I have to look at yours. And no, I am not wearing a dress. Maker!" He almost said something about the maid’s outfit, only to remember that his mother was in the room. There were some things a woman didn’t need to know about her children.
Fenris finally chanced a look at Artemis, all but holding his breath. "Is… wearing a dress your only objection?" he asked.
Artie’s expression softened. He tweaked one twitching elf ear and pressed a chaste kiss to Fenris’s lips. He always thought he’d be the one to propose, truly, but then his methods would have been goatless and much less interesting. "One of two objections," he said. "The other is that the goat is shitting on the floor as we speak. Maker."