Title: Brotherly Love: 9:19 Dragon
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V1 D0)
Warnings: Threats of violence, teenage arrogance
Notes: Cormac’s 16, Artie’s 14. And then there were elves.
They were in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night. Cormac knew the only times the elves used the roads was when they were moving camps — camps that he’d probably never see — but, he’d heard a rumour that a clan had taken to the road, ahead of them, and was headed in this direction. This was it, then. He was going to meet actual Dalish elves, and hopefully not get himself and his brother killed. But, he had something to offer — a lot of something to offer, really. Translations and copies of original texts regarding pre-Dalish elven life, fistfuls of extremely unlikely runes that he shouldn’t have been crafting (and Maker, if his dad found out he’d been working with lyrium…), bushels of fruit from the trees along the road. He’d blocked the middle of the road with the goods he meant to offer, and sat down with a book and a handful of flame to wait. He’d hear the halla, he assumed.
But, he assumed incorrectly, he realised, looking up into the face of the scout lifting his face with a blade. A relieved smile broke across his face, as soon as he realised he wasn’t looking at a highwayman. "We come to trade," he said, still smiling. "Goods and books for traditional stories."
The elf stared down the length of his blade at him, the fire in Cormac’s hand casting jagged, flickering shadows across his face. His stare cut to Artemis, who was a wide-eyed, trembling ball of nerves next to his brother, a second blade from a second elf pointed at his throat. The first scout looked at the second. "Lethalin," he called her before muttering something to her in Elvish. She said something back, and the first elf chuffed, the firelight reflecting off his teeth as he grinned.
"What are they saying?" Artemis asked Cormac, eyes almost wide enough to fall out of their sockets. "Are they plotting to kill us? Cormac, are we going to be killed by elves in the middle of the road?" At least he wouldn’t have to explain to Mum.
"Are you actually worrying about this?" Cormac grinned lazily, eyes never leaving the elves. "It’s fine. We know nothing of any value except what we’re carrying. We can’t hurt them, and we don’t know where they’re going." He said it as much for the elves as for his brother.
The second elf eyed Cormac. "If you don’t know where we were going," she said, her accent thick, "how did you know we’d be here?"
"We didn’t. We only know where you were three days past. Unless you’d set camp or turned off on another road, between there and here, you’d be passing here, tonight, if I was right about how fast halla travel. Which it looks like I am. Wild guess from one of these books." He gestured to the basket beside him. "The texts are mostly Tevinter. I’ve been copying for nearly a year. I don’t know how much of this is going to be meaningful at all, but I gather the Dalish didn’t manage to escape with much, in the wake of Shartan, but the Circle has been preserving the Tevinter history of the elves for centuries. I have some of those books."
"What happened to your face?" the first scout asked, clearly holding back a laugh.
Cormac shrugged. "A scholar. Ma garas dirthara."
"Your accent is horrible. Where did you learn to speak like that?" The second scout looked confused and disgusted.
"Tevinter books. I can spell it all, but I can’t say it." Cormac shook his head. "I’m afraid my accent’s just as Fereldan as it is in Common."
The first scout finally lowered his sword, head tilting as he peered at the baskets next to the boys. He exchanged a look and a shrug with the other scout, who sighed and muttered something else, pointing her sword at the ground. Artemis relaxed, letting the spell under his fingers dissipate uncast.
"Very well, shemlen," the second scout said. "We’ll take you to the Keeper. She’ll decide what to do about this exchange of yours." She curled her fingers, gesturing for them to get up, and Artemis scurried to help Cormac carry the baskets they’d brought. The elves kept their sword pointed towards the ground but didn’t sheathe them as they escorted the brothers back down the road.
Artemis walked close to Cormac’s side, sneaking glances at the elves. He’d seen his share of city elves but not Dalish, and he studied the tattoos on their faces as best he could without staring too closely. Suddenly his brother’s tattoos made a bit more sense, though Artemis didn’t think he could commit to something like that. On his face? What if the lines weren’t even? They’d be permanent and likely be permanently driving him mad.
Cormac shrugged off the harness that attached him to the three bushels of fruit that dragged along the ground behind him, and set down the basket of runes. He’d let Artie take the books. They weren’t dangerous or heavy — well, they were less heavy than the fruit, anyway. "I’m a scholar," he said, first. "I’m not with the Chantry, either. I think they’re assholes, and this is why." Turning his palm up, he lit a fire in it again, which illuminated his face quite clearly. "I’ve brought what history I could find that you might not have," he said, waving to the basket Artie had set beside him. "My only interest is to hear your history as you tell it. To learn your stories from you, and not from translated Tevinter books."
The keeper nodded, slowly. "Would you care to explain your face?" she asked, delicately.
"I’m a scholar," Cormac said again, as if that explained everything. Above him, from atop the aravel the keeper stood before, there was a whoop of laughter, and Cormac spotted an elf — he couldn’t tell how old, elves still confused him a bit — looking down at them and cackling like a fool.
"I … see." The keeper gave another wary nod. "Will you introduce yourself, scholar?"
"I’m called Cormac. Cormac Hawke, and this is my brother Artemis." Cormac cocked a thumb at his brother and the laughter above him suddenly choked off.
Artemis looked up at the no-longer-cackling elf, brows knit. No tattoos, so he wasn’t an adult yet, at least not by Dalish standards, but the cut of his cheekbones and the line of his shoulders hinted that he might be older than Artemis, if not by much. The elf eyed him up and down and offered him a lazy smile when he noticed Artie was looking.
Heat spread across Artie’s cheeks up to the tips of his ears. He offered the looming elf an awkward smile in reply and turned back to the keeper. He could still feel the elf watching him, however, and if anything his blush grew hotter. "It’s, um. It’s a pleasure to meet you, keeper," he said, ducking his head in as polite a greeting as he could manage.
The keeper looked back and forth between the two of them, clearly at a loss. "You are welcome among the Dalish, young Hawkes," she finally said. "It is rare for shemlen to show such an interest in our culture, and far be it from me to discourage inquisitive young minds." Her stare lingered over Cormac’s tattoos again, and she looked like she was about to amend that statement, only for her to shake her head and sigh. "If it is our tales you want, I would speak to Master Ilen. Mahariel!" The keeper turned, addressing the young elf on top of the aravel. "Would you be so kind as to introduce our guests to Master Ilen?"
Mahariel scrambled down and circled around the aravel, to approach Artemis. "Of course. I, er, that is… Follow me. He’s further back. You know, I don’t meet many shemlen, out here in the woods. The scouts usually kill them. You’re… it’s a pleasure to meet you." His eyes sparkled, and somehow he remembered to close his mouth, if a little later than he’d meant. Flustered, he offered a hand to Artemis and then didn’t wait for him to take it, just turned and walked toward another aravel, further up the road, as the keeper called out instructions to pull to the side and camp for the night.
Cormac took the books and followed his brother and their elven guide, amused by the whole thing. Some elf making eyes at Artemis? That hadn’t been on the agenda, but he’d avoid threatening the kid, unless he had to. Wouldn’t be prudent in the middle of a caravan of potentially very angry elves. Could really just be that they were the first shem the elf had met.
Mahariel introduced them to an older storyteller, and Cormac offered the books before his name, as usual. Finally, someone was willing to accept them, and with interest, and they fell to talking about the Tevinter tales, as the aravels moved into the woods, and they were left to follow. Eventually, Ilen invited the brothers to sit by the fire with him, and Cormac was quick to accept the offer, expecting his brother to sit beside him, but not entirely surprised when the space was left open. He looked back to see the young elf whispering something to his brother.
"I’m going to talk business with Master Ilen. Don’t burn anything down, Artie," he joked.
"Mm?" Artemis finally looked at his brother at the sound of his name. He caught the amused look on Cormac’s face and cleared his throat. "Right. No burning. Theron, um — Mahariel, here — is going to show me around the camp. Yes." Theron whispered something else in Artemis’s ear that made him smile and duck his head, and then the elf led him away from the fire, the two of them walking closely together.
Master Ilen watched the two of them go and shook his head. His face twisted as it tried to find an expression between amused and displeased.
"Don’t mind my brother. He’s just young, and history bores him." Cormac shrugged and picked up one of the books he’d brought, paging through it. "I don’t have to worry about him with that Mahariel guy, do I? Is he trouble?"
"He’s young," Ilen said, as his face finally settled on amusement. The boy in front of him couldn’t be that much older than either of the other two.
"I should be worried," Cormac muttered, "but I’m not going to be. There’s an amazing story in here about … I can’t quite figure out the words. Does that say something about warriors of victorious knowledge?"
"Let me see…" Ilen took the book and looked where Cormac had been pointing. Except for the Elvish words, it seemed to all be written in Common, which was good, since he didn’t speak Tevene. The language was frowned upon, which seemed foolish, since that was where most of their history had gone. But, this boy and his books might have some missing pieces. He pointedly did not look up at the sound of rustling leaves, behind him, but he shook his head. Ah, youth.