[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 140
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Merrill ♀
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Angry shouting in Elvish, maybe an ‘elven culture’ joke
Notes: This eluvian is pining for the fjords!
Merrill opened her door to find Anders and Artemis standing on the other side of it, Anders balancing a box on his head. She’d been expecting them, of course, but it was always so odd to have visitors in her tiny home. "I’m so glad you’re here!" she smiled and stepped back, letting them both in. "It’s just the same as it’s been. I wrote down everything I’ve tried, but it still doesn’t work! I don’t know what else to do!"
Anders set down the box and took her by the shoulders. "Hey, that’s why we’re here. I brought lyrium."
"Lyrium isn’t the answer to everything," Merrill sighed, eyeing the box suspiciously.
"No, but if the Imperium was using it to power elven-made stuff, it’s got to at least help. Maybe it’s just run out of power. Maybe whatever was keeping it on got removed. It’s thousands of years old, and we’ve got to start somewhere, so I’m voting for amplifying whatever magic it has, to start with." Anders shrugged and ruffled Merrill’s hair. "Look, there’s three of us, right? We’ll figure it out, together."
Merrill nodded, still smiling, but Anders could tell her cheerfulness was forced. She was frustrated, and after all these years working at the damned thing, he didn’t blame her. She led them into her bedroom where the mirror stood, picking up her rumpled nightshirt with her toes before Artie could see it. "I thought the arulin’holm would work, but… maybe you’re right. Maybe it just needs a boost."
Artemis fidgeted with a sleeve of his tunic, reminding himself that it was rude to clean someone else’s place without their permission, a fact he needed to remind himself every time he visited Merrill. And her home was neat by Merrill-standards, which meant she’d likely tried to clean the place for his benefit, bless her soul.
While Anders brought the box over, Artie stepped in front of the mirror and squinted at its lack of reflection. "Have you tried polishing it?" he asked, itching to rub away the layers of dust it had accumulated. "It’s looking a bit… foggy."
"I don’t think cleaning is going to change that," Merrill said around a chuckle.
Anders investigated the frame of the mirror. "This isn’t the original frame, is it?" he asked after a few moments.
"No, I… the only thing left was a shard. I took the shard and started again. But, I followed the lore exactly. The mirror behaves the same as the shard. I don’t understand why it won’t work!" The air around Merrill congealed, briefly, and Anders understood exactly how frustrated she really was.
"The lore is probably wrong. Not wrong, wrong, but there’s something missing. Think of how little is left of Arlathan. The books are Tevinter or Dalish from before the fall of the Dales. They’re not written by people who made these things. They might not even be written, in a lot of cases, by people who used them." Anders shrugged and crouched next to the mirror, pulling on heavy drake-skin gloves. "And that’s where we’re lost, I think. There’s some secret that we’re missing."
"It’s useless, then." Merrill sat down, hard, in the middle of the floor. "It’s just useless."
"Not yet. I watched Solona Amell power up an ancient Tevinter defensive array, in a dragon-infested pit, with nothing more than some crystals and the intentionally half-bullshit instructions of the father of intelligent darkspawn. If all else fails, we send a letter to Solona. It’s weird enough for her to take an interest." Anders carefully worked the lyrium into the frame of the mirror. "But, it’s not going to come to that, because you’re amazing, and you’ve already gotten this far. We can do this. You can do this."
The smile Merrill gave him then was smaller but more genuine. "Thank you, Anders." She watched him work, rubbing lyrium into the eluvian’s frame until it glittered in the sunlight. It amazed her still that these shemlen mages were more interested in preserving a piece of Dalish history than her own clan seemed to be. Though she suspected they were doing it more for her than anything else, except, perhaps, for Cormac with his… unusual interest in all things elvhen.
While Anders worked, Artemis poked at a few of the tomes Merrill had left open on her bed, noting the faded print, the weather pages. He wondered how old they were and how Merrill had come across them.
"All right," Anders said at last, stepping back to admire his handiwork. "Let’s hope that will help. If nothing else, it sparkles rather nicely. Like Fenris, if he were a mirror frame."
"Not broody enough," Merrill laughed, rising to her feet. She stretched her back, shook out her fingers. "Might want to step back, in case it… well. I’m not sure what might happen, exactly."
She meant Anders, but Artemis stepped further back anyway, just in case. He was wondering if maybe they should have brought Cormac, with his shields.
"Artie? Rocks." Anders suggested. "Your brother will be very displeased if I let you get killed again." He made no move to protect himself, though, as if he either weren’t important or didn’t care.
The air grew thick, crackling as Merrill brought her will to bear on the eluvian, elvish words pouring from her mouth. At one point, the mirror almost cleared, flickers of silver showing through the clouds and fog, but nothing happened. No clap of thunder, no portal to another world, no confused elves staring back through the talking mirror. The lyrium sparkled brightly, and Anders glowed faintly, watching it, but… the air thinned out again, and they were left with a smeary mirror and an electrical taste.
Words came flying out of Merrill — at least Anders assumed they were words, and rather foul ones, given the force and volume of them. "Why doesn’t it work!? It has to work!"
Artemis let the sheets of rock slide away from his skin and drop into nothing — that had been the hardest part of learning that spell, dispelling the rock once he’d summoned it. "Something seemed to happen," he said. "Did the mirror flicker like that the last time you tried?"
"It did, though not as much," Merrill sighed, tugging at a knot in her hair. "The lyrium… maybe it helped but. Elgar’nan, I don’t know. I’ve tried everything. I am at my wit’s end!"
"Not everything, surely," Anders consoled her, resting a hand on her feathered shoulders. "Just… lots of things. A great lot of things."
Artemis hummed as he went back to thumbing through pages, all written in a language he couldn’t read. "Maybe the problem isn’t with the mirror itself," he said. "Or with the materials. You’re welcome to try throwing more lyrium at it, but… that’s just opening up a Fade-touched can of worms. Maybe the problem is with the words? The spell itself?" He shrugged. "Did you learn the spell from one of these books? As Anders said, most of what we know is… going to be murky at best."
"The words are probably wrong," Merrill admitted, sitting on the edge of the table next to the book. "The language… We like to say there’s still a language, but there’s really not. There’s not enough of a language to live in. There are ritual words and magic words, but the words for talking about hunting or crafting are almost all gone. The elves of the Dales mostly spoke Tevene. The Keeper doesn’t teach the words we have left to the clan. She teaches them to the First — that’s me. How many words didn’t get taught? How many words did her Keeper know, that I don’t know? The clan doesn’t even have another language. They all speak Common, but nobody actually speaks Elvish, except Mahariel and Paivel. If these aren’t the words, I don’t know where to get the words."
"I might." Anders untied his hair and ran his hands through it. "I remember some things, from when I used to spend half my days curled up with Tevinter histories. When they’d write foreign words, they would either write what the word sounded like, or try to translate it into Tevene. So, the question is whether those words are —" he counted on his fingers "— right, but you’re saying them wrong; written like they’re supposed to sound; or the closest translations to the meaning of the words that were supposed to go there, because they were elvish words that got translated into Tevene and back. For the first two, I think we want Fenris to take a look. For the last one, you’re right. We might be totally screwed."
"Maybe not totally screwed," Artemis said, still itching with the urge to clean. The mirror’s dirtiness gnawed at his mind even when he wasn’t looking at it. "A second opinion on the Elvish might not hurt."
"Marethari won’t help," Merrill said, voice bitter. "She was reluctant to even give me the arulin’holm. Even if she did know something, she wouldn’t tell me. Or… or worse, she’d make something up that would make it worse."
Artie picked at the edge of his sleeve, trying to smooth out a wrinkle. "I’m not suggesting Marethari," he said. "You mentioned Mahariel, and he was… well. He might be able to offer another perspective. We could have our own research team of elves and mages!"
Merrill blinked, head tilting. "Mahariel? I haven’t spoken to him since I left the clan. I could ask, but I don’t think he’d…" She trailed off when she noticed the way Anders’s shoulders shook with barely-suppressed laughter. "What? What’s so funny? Have I missed something?"
"Oh, no," Anders replied, grin wide enough to split his face. "I just think he’d be more than happy to help us if Artie asked."
Merrill turned her quizzical look Artie’s way, and Artemis looked at everything in the room except for Merrill. He fiddled with the book he couldn’t read some more as an excuse to duck his head. "He’s… not wrong," Artemis muttered, awkwardly clearing his throat.
"Oh," Merrill said. She stifled a giggle behind her palm. "I did not realise that you two kept in contact."
"Oh, there was plenty of contact," Anders chirped. The look Artemis sent him said a force push was coming his way if he kept it up.