[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 113
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Merrill ♀, Bethany Hawke ♀, Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Magic and dick jokes
Notes: Merrill asks for Bethany’s help with a certain magical piece of furniture that’s giving her a hard time. Mage party! Fenris is less than entirely amused with any of this.
Merrill was a flurry of activity, fluttering into the study before Bodhan had a chance to announce her presence, shorter legs scrambling to keep up with her.
"Hello!" she chirped, waving at the Hawke she found inside. "Oh dear. Are you busy? You’re busy, aren’t you?"
"Hello." Bethany tucked a slip of paper into the tome she was reading to mark her place, her greeting and smile distorted by the quill between her teeth. She set aside the tome, stacking it with its brethren and pulled the quill back out of her mouth. "I’m always keeping myself busy, certainly, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have time to talk."
Bodhan finally caught up. "Lady Merrill… here to see you… messere," he puffed.
"Are you sure this isn’t a bad time?" Merrill fretted. "It’s a bad time, isn’t it? I should have waited for you to see if she was busy. That was silly of me. Sorry, Bodhan."
Bodhan smiled politely, having been putting up with this from Merrill for years, now, and shrugged slightly at Bethany, who covered her mouth with the end of the quill, in a shoddy attempt to hide a different sort of smile.
"It’s all right. Both of you." Bethany set the quill on a scrap of blotter paper. "What are you so flustered about, Merrill? Is it my brother, again? Any of my brothers… And would you like some tea?"
"Brothers? Oh, no. No, no. It’s … it’s not Carver. I … I don’t see him very much, since he joined the Order." For a moment, Merrill looked a little lost, but she recovered quickly, and continued. "I would like to invite you to see something I’ve been working on. It’s… well, it doesn’t work, and I really need another mage to look at it. I just don’t know what else to try! You were the first person I thought of…"
"Well, if it’s not Nevarran death magic, I don’t know how much good I’ll be, but I’d love to see what you’re working on! What an excellent excuse to get out of the house!" Bethany smiled brightly, dismissing Bodhan with a wave of her hand. "Do you just want me, or should we let the boys come along, too? If we bring them all, between us, we’ll have almost all the schools represented, I think, some of them a few times over."
"Oh! Do… do you think they’ll come?" Merrill hadn’t been so sure about Cormac and Artemis, each with his own weird elf fetish. Learning that Cormac’s face had been an unfortunate accident had softened her view of him a bit, and Artemis didn’t seem to have any interest in her, no matter how drunk he got. And at this point, the more mages she could trust to take a look at the thing, the better. It was just beyond the help of everything she’d tried.
Bethany chuckled, giving Merrill an arch look. "You’re working on something mysterious and magical. Artie loves puzzles, and Cormac loves to meddle. Of course they’d come." Bethany finished setting aside her research materials, organising everything so she could pick up right where she left off. "Though if we’re bringing both of them, we should probably see if we can bring Anders along too."
"Oh!" Merrill’s eyes lit. "Right. He was in the Circle! I’m sure he knows all sorts of things the rest of us don’t. Magically, anyway." She thought of the time she’d poked through his books while he wasn’t around, looking for dirty spells. The ones she’d found had been interesting but not much help to her. But with blood, earth, vines… she’d found ways to improvise.
"I was thinking more in case we needed healing, but yes, this is true."
"Oh! Right. Healing. Healing? Why would we need…? Never mind. These are your brothers, after all." She covered a laugh with her hand. Hopefully her place wouldn’t be too crowded. Had she remembered to clean the dishes? Well. Dish, really. And clothes… were all her clothes put away? Was there enough seating? Did they need seating? She really should have thought this through.
"I’ll go change into something more appropriate, and tell Cormac to put something on. Anything." Bethany laughed and stopped herself before she patted Merrill on the shoulder with an inky hand.
"Other than Anders," Merrill joked, eyes sparkling. It wasn’t often she spoke Common well enough to joke in it, but when she did…
Bethany paused in the doorway. "I’d almost give money to see the two of them try to walk across town like that." She laughed and headed for the stairs.
Cormac made it back down, first, staff in one hand and a book in the other. He ducked into the library. "What’s this I hear about exotic magical secrets?"
"Oh, I don’t know about exotic. It’s just an old elven thing the Keeper didn’t want." Merrill smiled nervously. ‘An old elven thing the keeper didn’t want’, because it had killed a man and brought darkspawn into the forest. But, she was so sure it had once had value and a use, and that these things could be restored… if she could figure out how to use it.
"Well, shit. I don’t know what good I’ll be. Half of what I know about elven history and magic, I learned from your tribe." Cormac shrugged apologetically.
"It’s the other half that’s important." Merrill’s eyes narrowed. Half? Did he know things she didn’t? Being a shem meant he had an easier time travelling, but who else could he have spoken to — who else wouldn’t have killed him on the spot for a stunt like he’d pulled with them?
"Well, I’m going to run down and tear Anders away from whatever’s sucking his brains out, today. We’ll be right up." Cormac winked and ducked out again, and the cellar door slammed, a few seconds later.
Bethany padded down the stairs, staff strapped to her back. "And here I thought it would be Cormac sucking out his brains."
Merrill blinked as the joke processed, and then she tittered into her hand.
"Not sure how much help I’ll be," Anders told her when he appeared at the top of the stairs, as though he’d been a part of the conversation from the beginning.
"That seems to be the theme of the day," Merrill said, shrugging. "Frankly, I don’t know how much help any of you will be either, but." She scratched the back of her head and smiled sheepishly. "Well. I could use a second pair of eyes. Or a third pair. Fourth. Fifth. However many. And mage eyes, really."
"So… this elven thing," Anders said. "What is it, exactly?" He was starting to wish he’d done more reading while he was in Kinloch Hold. Usually if he went to the library, it wasn’t for the books.
Merrill hesitated. Which was silly, really, because they needed to know if they were going to help. And chances were they wouldn’t know, anyway. Would they? Well. It would actually help her if they did… "It’s called an Eluvian," she answered. "It’s… it’s a mirror, really. Or part of one."
"I caught a bit about those once, but I thought they were Tevinter. There was a book back in the tower that mentioned them, in passing — some kind of thing to talk to people from far away, right?" Anders nodded to himself, rubbing his knuckles along his jaw as he stared down the hall trying to remember. "Maybe we should bring Fenris along. He knows the weirdest things about Imperial history and magic."
Bethany blinked. "You want to put Fenris in a room full of mages, with a broken magic mirror that might be Tevinter?"
"It’s not Tevinter," Merrill insisted. "They stole them, like they stole everything else."
"And there’s the Imperium, ruining it for everyone, once again." Cormac rolled his eyes. He had some strong opinions about Tevinter anything, and over the years, he’d started hammering those ideas into Anders’s head — Anders who had once seen the Imperium as an escape, and had pushed aside everything that was wrong with it, knowing that if he could get there, he’d finally be free. Cormac had a feeling Justice had been working on him, too.
"Hey, at least they’re honest about keeping slaves," Anders muttered.
"Don’t say that in front of Fenris. I’m probably not going to save you, if you do," Bethany said, with a shrug, opening the door.
"I’m not saying it’s good or right. I’m just saying they’re not lying about it," Anders grumbled. "So are we getting the broody Tevinter elf and his delicate mageflower of manic cleanliness?"
The Tevinter elf had reached new levels of brooding by the time Merrill had ushered them into her home. It was cramped with the six of them, five of them mages. Cramped mages, in a blood mage’s home, looking at something ancient and magic and likely terribly dangerous. Fenris was at the point where he was more resigned than surprised, but he still positioned himself within range of the door.
"Come look!" Merrill chirped, beaming with pride as she led them into her bedroom. She toed a dirty plate under her bed before gesturing towards the corner, where a heavy mirror stood, cracked and filmy but still recognisable as a mirror. "Isn’t it beautiful?" she sighed.
Artemis took a step forward, fingers twitching with the urge to clean the thing. "What is?" he teased. "The mirror or my reflection?" He shrugged. "Sorry, couldn’t resist. It is… certainly very nice, for a mirror."
"I’ve spent the last few years restoring this," Merrill said, laying a hand on the ornate gold frame. "One of our clan found it in the Brecilian forest, we think." She bit her lip, wondering if she should tell them about Tamlen.
"But that’s the thing, Artie," Anders muttered, stepping closer. "It doesn’t reflect you. Or the room."
"Odd." Cormac frowned and squeezed past Artemis to squint down the side of the mirror, trying to get a better look at the glass. "It looks a little dinged, but it should be reflecting something, even if it’s all fucked up."
"Magic," Fenris huffed, back pressed against the furthest wall, as he tried to look like he was nonchalantly leaning on it.
"The glass hasn’t reflected anything as long as I’ve had it. It’s not that kind of mirror. I wish I could find the missing shards, but…" Merrill decided to tell the story. She had to tell it, really, if they were to understand how everything had gotten to this point. How the thing had been broken, what it would have meant, if it were whole. "Mahariel, actually. Mahariel and Tamlen, but Tamlen didn’t come back. We never found him, just the shattered pieces of the eluvian."
Cormac’s eyes darted to his brother, and he didn’t ask any of the questions that piled up against the back of his teeth. Artemis caught that glance before looking down at his hands instead, picking at the dirt under his nails nervously.
"Yes, that doesn’t sound ominous," Fenris muttered, voice dripping disdain. "Does anyone remember what happened the last time we encountered something ancient, magical, and potentially dangerous? No?"
"It’s not like that!" Merrill argued. "This is a part of our past! Our heritage! I know what it is. Sort of."
"And what is it, exactly?" Artemis asked, throwing Fenris a look that begged for patience. The elf huffed but bit his tongue. "Besides a mirror that doesn’t… well, do any mirroring?"
"Yes," Bethany added, stepping forward to examine the artefact. "Anders said something about using them to communicate?" She touched the edge of the frame delicately.
"Long ago, the elves had a kingdom," Merrill began, and Cormac recognised the shift in her breathing, in the rhythm of her speech, as she fell into the storytelling mode of the Dalish. "An empire that covered Thedas. And every city had an eluvian. The mirrors let them communicate across their empire, like Anders said, but I don’t know how."
"And then men came from the north, and slaughtered what they couldn’t enslave, enslaved what they couldn’t slaughter, and stole everything that wasn’t nailed down," Fenris grumbled, from behind them all.
"I have the singularly most terrible idea." Cormac’s eyes lit up. "What makes magic go? Lyrium makes magic go. Come here a minute, Fenris…"
"No." Fenris continued leaning on the wall, weight settling differently, and Cormac thought he was likely to be nearly immovable, in that position. Not that Cormac had any intention of trying to move him.
"We could always ask Carver," Bethany pointed out. He’d become a templar, and he’d at least have access to lyrium.
"Wait, what did you ever do with that shipment we stole from the templars, Anders?" Cormac grinned, eyes glimmering with excitement.
"Most of it went into potions, but I do still have some in storage. Just in case, you know. Never really want to be caught without something when you need it." Anders rubbed his jaw. "You think it would work? It’s not crystalline. It’s not the raw stuff. The last time I saw something actually lyrium-powered, it definitely took crystals."
"I hate to interrupt whatever dastardly plan you are all cooking up," Artemis said, "but are we even sure this is a good idea? Creepy mirror, elf goes missing? Varric could tell you what kind of stories start that way."
"The ruin we tracked Tamlen to was full of traps and monstrous things," Merrill replied. "We found no body, but anything could have taken him. His tracks merely ended at the mirror." Unless the mirror had been working when Tamlen had found it. But that was a dangerous thought, and she’d given up hope of finding him long ago.
"So you say," Fenris rumbled. "But why do I have the feeling this has to do with why the Keeper sent you away?"
Merrill straightened, setting her jaw. She didn’t even bother denying it. "The Keeper wanted me to destroy the fragment I kept. She said our ancestors meant it to be forgotten." Merrill shook her head. "But it’s a Keeper’s place to remember! Even the dangerous things. We argued. I… left."
"So even your Keeper thinks this is a terrible idea?" Fenris snapped.
"Nothing should be forgotten," Cormac said, quietly. "When you forget, the only thing left is the danger from before you knew."
"Seconding that," Anders said, raising a hand. "And how can she say it was meant to be forgotten, when the city was probably emptied by force? It’s still there, because it was nailed down, and that sounds like something someone wanted remembered."
"He… has a point," Fenris admitted.
"She’s wrong," Merrill agreed. "This mirror could teach us so much about who we once were!"
"Or it could be booby-trapped, because the Tevinter army was over the next rise, and they didn’t want the thing taken," Anders reminded them all. "Still, some of them were taken. There are books. It was less important to me, because it required some rare magical artefact, and I was trapped in a damn tower in the middle of a lake, but now that I’m standing in front of one, I really wish I’d paid more attention to those parts."
"Still, that means someone did figure out how to use them, at some point, and wrote it down. There are instructions for using this thing, somewhere, but they’re very likely back in Ferelden, in one of the last places in Thedas I really want to set foot." Cormac sighed and eyed the mirror balefully.
"It’s not booby-trapped any more!" Merrill said, suddenly. "I fixed it. With blood magic. At least, I made it stop being dangerous. Now it’s just broken. But, I tried everything, and it just doesn’t work. I think it’s because it needs to be finished with a special tool. An arulin’holm. My clan has one. It’s been in their hands for generations."
"If you think you already know how to fix it," Bethany said, "then why do you need us? Why not just get the arulin’holm and finish what you started?"
Merrill blew out a sigh, pacing the short length of the room. "I wanted to see if there was anything else I could try first. The Keeper will know why I need the arulin’holm, and she… You have to understand. The Keeper… I can’t talk to her. We fight or… or talk circles around each other." She looked down at her feet, toes curling against the wood. "And she has this disappointed frown that turns your bones to jelly. I really don’t want to face her unless I have to."
Artemis sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He still wasn’t sure about any of this, but he doubted anything he said would stop them at this point. "Well. I’d say we could get it for you, but I’m not sure she’d be any happier to see us." He gestured between Cormac and himself. Anders and Bethany exchanged wry looks.
"Ah. Right." Merrill let out a nervous laugh. "She might be more agreeable if she knew the tattoo wasn’t intentional, though."
"She was never particularly disagreeable to me," Cormac protested. "She just… always looked at me like I was an idiot child, which, to be entirely fair, I was, at the time."
"‘At the time’," Fenris rumbled, clearing his throat and glancing at Artemis. "Yes."
"Now, now," Anders chided. "He’s not a child any more."
Bethany laughed, patting Merrill’s shoulder.
Cormac huffed. "See if you’re getting laid, tonight."
"I am. Isabela left town." Anders smiled all too sweetly and fluttered his eyelashes at Cormac.
"But, yes, we’ll go with you. What about you, Bethy? She doesn’t know you…" Cormac grinned at his sister.
"I don’t have nearly the experience with Dalish politics the two of you have," Bethany answered, almost tactfully.
"Politics," Fenris muttered. "Is that what we’re calling it, now?"
"Elven c…ulture." Cormac drew out the word as he clapped Artemis on the back with a wicked grin. "We all know how much you enjoy elven c…ulture."
"You’re lucky you have shields," Artemis said, throwing Cormac a half-hearted glare. "Or you wouldn’t have a ‘c…ulture’ to speak of."
"I don’t understand," said Merrill, tilting her head to the side like a bird. "Aren’t you both Fereldan? Don’t you have the same culture?"
Anders bit back an ugly laugh, throwing a hand over his face to block the sounds. Artemis’s ears turned red.
"Oh." Merrill blinked. "That was dirty, wasn’t it? I missed something dirty again."
"I wish I had missed it," Fenris muttered. Mages.