[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 125
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Theron Mahariel ♂, Kallian Tabris ♀
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D1)
Warnings: A glass of wine and some interesting dinner table conversation.
Notes: A surprise visit from an old friend.
Orana opened the door to find two well-dressed elves standing on the other side, one bearing what appeared to be gifts. They were Dalish, from the look of things.
"We’re here to see Earthq—" the man started, but the woman stepped on his foot, and talked over him.
"Artemis and Fenris." The woman looked curiously at her companion. "The pretty one was Fenris, right?"
"No, the pretty one was Artemis," he replied.
"Ah! Yes, of course. And you are…?" Orana looked at them, expectantly.
"I’m Kalli, and this great buffoon is my husband, Theron. And you?" the woman asked.
"I am Orana. I keep house for the messeres." She held open the door for the two of them. "Come in. You can wait in the game room, while I fetch them."
They followed her through what seemed to be an extremely expensive and well-kept house, to a room with a long table and shelves full of bottles, boards, and cards. It seemed they entertained, and really, Theron shouldn’t be surprised, with the rest of the house. And Earthquake Boy had always been friendly enough, if a little shy and awkward, sometimes. Orana left them with a promise to return shortly.
Orana found messeres Fenris and Artemis in the middle of a lesson, Fenris reading aloud from a book while Artemis looked on. The reading stopped as she entered the room, and they looked up at her.
"Was that the door?" Artemis asked. "Please tell me it wasn’t flowers."
"Not today, messere," Orana replied.
"Maker be praised," Fenris muttered under his breath.
"You have visitors, actually," she went on. "A lovely couple, named… Kalli and Theron? They’re waiting for you in the game room."
Artemis stared at her, eyes unusually round, and Orana wondered if she had said something wrong. Fenris glanced at his fiancé, before he sighed and thanked her. Orana nodded and bowed her head before leaving the study, returning to the kitchen to finish dinner.
Fenris and Artemis exchanged a look. "I’m going to kill your brother," Fenris said, shutting the book.
"There might be a line."
In the game room, Theron poked at a few bottles while Kalli hissed at him to stop touching things. Artemis noticed the bottles had been moved the moment he walked into the room, and he sucked in a calming breath.
"Hello!" he greeted them, and Theron stepped back from the shelf. "Fancy seeing you two here. In Hightown. In Kirkwall. Uh, that is, welcome to Hightown. And Kirkwall. It’s good to see you."
"It’s always good to see you, Artemis." Theron stumbled over the name, as if he might say something else, but thought better of it. He gestured to the packages on the card table. "Kalli and I come bearing gifts! And I’ve just realised I have no idea what you like other than—"
Kalli stepped on her husband’s foot, firmly, and gave Fenris an exasperated look. "Please excuse him. He’s been chasing this legend since long before we met."
Theron pointed at Kalli and eyed Artemis frustratedly. "Will you tell her it’s not a legend?"
"If you are referring to the, ah, earthquakes," Fenris said, toes curling against the floor as he looked at neither of them, "they are quite legendary, but anything but mythic." He finally looked up at Kalli, with a wry smile. "There have been structural adjustments to our home."
"A shem who moves the earth with the power of his mi’nehn, huh? Still sounds like drunken campfire stories to me." Kalli shook her head and gestured to the gifts, again, changing the subject. "We were in town to buy and sell some things. He said we shouldn’t drop in without bringing something, so there’s a bottle of yellow demon-water — er, peach liqueur — and those horrendous pickled acorns he eats."
"They are not horrendous!" Theron protested. "Look, I just wanted to see you. Not just a few stolen minutes in the background of whatever crazy thing your brother’s doing, this time. That’s how it’s always been."
A self-deprecating smile twisted Artie’s lips as he looked down at the table, fingers twisting in his hair. "Ah. Yes. Cormac’s insanity does tend to overshadow everything else." At least it was usually an amusing kind of insanity, the kind Artie didn’t mind getting swept up in. "And it is good to see you after all this time. And to properly meet your wife who is, I suspect, far out of your league."
Kalli grinned, nudging Theron with her elbow. "I suspect you’re right," Theron said.
"‘Suspect’?" Kalli teased.
"Well, I have to leave you room for improvement."
Fenris snorted as he poked at the jar of acorns, turning it over in his hands curiously. His eyes met Kalli’s, and they shared a commiserating look. "Orana is preparing dinner," he said, still toying with the jar of acorns. "She always makes too much. Would you… like to join us?"
Artemis fought to keep the surprise off his face. Fenris, asking Theron to stay? And Kalli too, of course, but… after how growly he’d been about Theron back at the Dalish camp?
"I… yes," he stuttered. "That’s… food. Food is a good thing." He coughed into his fist and tried again. "That is to say, please join us for dinner?" Though Artie might need to break into that liqueur early if Theron kept eyeing him like that.
"We’d love to stay for dinner. That’s very kind of you to offer," Theron said, with a somewhat relieved smile at Fenris. He took another look around the room. "In all my years, I never thought I’d be standing in a house like this, and certainly not one owned by people I know…"
"And until recently, I never thought I’d own a house like this. Funny how that works, isn’t it?" Fenris handed the jar to Artie, with a completely baffled look. Pickled acorns? Pickled?
"It’s yours, then?" Kalli asked. "I had no idea they’d let an elf own a house anywhere outside the alienage. Especially not a place like this."
"It’s ours," Fenris clarified, picking up the bottle and heading for the dining room. "And they really don’t have much of a choice in the matter. I didn’t ask for approval, when I moved in."
Kalli laughed and followed. "I like you! Can I keep him, Theron?"
"Sorry, I’m not done with him," Artemis said, a smirk pulling at his lips. "Though I might let you borrow him, if you ask nicely."
"You are not lending me out, mage!" Fenris called back without looking over his shoulder.
"Too bad," Theron said, eyeing Fenris appreciatively. "I wouldn’t mind borrowing him myself." He looked at Kalli, she looked back, and the two of them seemed to have an entire conversation with just a few twists of their eyebrows.
Fenris was starting to rethink this idea. Artemis ducked into the kitchen to tell Orana their guests would be staying for dinner — and to hand her the pickled acorns he had no idea what to do with. He grabbed a bottle of wine and four glasses on his way out.
"Wine?" he offered as he came back into the dining room. "I’m having wine."
Fenris was definitely rethinking this idea.
"That sounds lovely," Theron said, holding out a hand for a glass.
"Adding alcohol to Theron may make him even more of a daft git, just so you’re warned. I don’t know how much drinking the two of you may have done, before, but I’ll guarantee it makes him stupid, now." Kalli laughed and plucked a glass out of Artie’s hand, passing it to Fenris, before swiping the other spare for herself.
"It does not make me stupid. It makes me more fun." Theron smirked at his wife.
"Slapstick, I presume," Fenris muttered, setting the other bottle on the table. He debated violating all good sense and helping himself to a couple of glasses, before the evening got any more interesting. Whatever else he might be, ‘drunk enough for this’ was not on the list.
"He was drunk, when we met," Kalli sighed, swatting her husband’s bottom. "Hadn’t gotten the hang of demon-water, yet, and was just hanging upside down from a branch of the vhenadahl, with a bottle in his hand, trying to figure out how to drink more without pouring it into his eye. What can I say? It was cute."
Artemis pointedly didn’t look at Fenris as he took a sip of his wine.
"Hmm, drunken shenanigans," Fenris said, eyeing Artemis. "I wonder what that’s like."
"In my defence," Artemis said, pointing at Fenris with the hand holding his glass, "we were at least sober when we met."
"And how long did that last?"
Theron chuckled around a mouthful of wine. "We’ll have to break out the demon-water later," he said. "See if either of you end up hanging upside-down from a tree."
"No trees," said Artie. "A chandelier, maybe."
Fenris eyed his fiancé. "Why do I have a feeling that has happened before?"
"It has, but not to me. Anton. You know the chandelier at the Blooming Rose? To this day, I have no idea how he got up there, but Cormac and I had to get him down after. Well. Mostly Cormac. You remember that… thing we did with the pear tree?"
Fenris remembered. It was right after their last stint in the Deep Roads, after Corypheus. A rather… creative use of force magic and shields to shake the pears from a tree. "You… shook down your brother like a fruit?"
"My brother is a fruit."
"Is this another brother?" Kalli asked around a laugh. "He wasn’t the one with the sword…?"
"No, no, that was Carver," Artie explained. He paused for another sip of wine. "Equally crazy but less likely to climb things."
Orana came out to set the extra places at the table, hands full of dishes and silverware. "Dinner will be served very soon," she said, with a quick nod, before she ducked back into the kitchen.
"So, how do you do it?" Kalli asked Fenris. "Keeping elf servants like every other nobleman."
"I pay her very well, and she lives with us," Fenris replied, coolly. "Do not presume you understand our circumstance. Neither of us came from an alienage."
"I was wondering about your face," Kalli admitted, taking a closer look. "I don’t think I’ve seen that one before. Where’s your clan from?"
"Kalli," Theron interrupted, before she could get further. "I don’t think he’s Dalish."
"Not from an alienage and not Dalish? How are you an elf?" Kalli looked completely confused at the idea, never having given much thought to the idea of elves beyond the alienages or the Dalish clans. What other kinds of elves were there?
Artemis stilled, wine glass halfway to his lips as he eyed the elves in front of him. The smile Fenris gave Kalli was more a baring of teeth. "‘How am I an elf’?" he asked. "I trust I don’t need to tell you the logistics of how elves are made. If you’re wondering where I’m from, it’s the Imperium."
Kalli’s expression sobered at that. Elves and Tevinter? That was a combination she knew, one she’d almost known too well. "I see," she said, turning the wine glass in her hand. At Fenris’s dubious look, she said, "We had a few… visitors from Tevinter at the Denerim alienage. Luckily, the Hero of Ferelden stepped in or they might have left with a few souvenirs." Like her father. Not her fondest memory, even if she’d gotten a chance to gut a few of the ‘Vints.
Fenris nodded, expression clearing. "I see," he said in turn. Maybe he would have those glasses of wine after all.
"The Hero of Ferelden?" Artemis asked. "Solona Amell?"
Kalli shrugged. "Was that her name? She seemed nice enough. Certainly fried the bastards pretty well."
Artie laughed weakly. "Yeah, that’s… my cousin."
Kalli’s eyebrows shot up. "Your family certainly gets around, doesn’t it?"
"You have no idea," Fenris muttered, earning a mock scowl from Artemis.
"How did you escape?" Kalli asked, turning back to Fenris.
"Perseverance." Fenris felt his ear twitch. This wasn’t something he enjoyed discussing.
"That how you two—" Kalli started.
"No." Fenris pulled out a chair, for Artemis, as Orana started bringing out the food. "We met in Kirkwall, after I paid him a few silver to pick up a package for me." That brought a hint of amusement back to his face, as he thought of it. A trap for one mage, and he’d caught a completely other one.
"After?" Theron asked, taking a seat on the other side of the table. "Don’t you usually meet someone before you pay them?"
"It was a complicated situation that involved a dwarf," Fenris explained, while explaining nothing at all. He took some bread for himself, and then served the segmentuli ad modum Carastei. That was the thing about Orana, he’d noticed, she was very attached to a handful of recipes from back home. Not that she wouldn’t cook other things, but there would always be something on the table that reminded him that he could have been standing behind the chair at the head of the table, not sitting in it. He found it kept things in perspective.
"A dwarf? Oh, no. Now this just sounds dirty," Kalli laughed, sitting next to her husband and eyeing Artemis for confirmation.
Artemis nodded around a bite of soup. He waited to chew and swallow before he said, "A dwarf. And some smugglers. Though it was all rather more ‘cloak and dagger’ than dirty. And it was technically Anton’s job. I was just there to keep him out of trouble. Well. For certain values of trouble. Keeping him out of trouble is like trying to corral cats."
Fenris had a sudden image of Anders and his pair of fluff-demons. Just trying to get Lord Assbiter to stop climbing his shoulders had been difficult enough.
"Anyway," Artemis went on, poking at his soup with his spoon, "we helped him with some pest-control in the form of Tevinter slavers, then went out for drinks, and… here we are." He glossed over the messier details. Like how Artie had accidentally smacked Fenris into the floor, and how Fenris had reciprocated by purposefully slamming him into a wall. By the throat. Artie caught Fenris’s eye and could tell his elf was thinking along the same lines. "It’s not the, uh… most romantic tale." And then he was thinking of the Deep Roads and tents and his hand squeezing Fenris’s pillowy ass. Artemis cleared his throat and took another drink of wine. Maker knew how they’d gotten here from… that.
"So, the crazy little farm mage with the earthquakes grew up to be the crazy and much taller noble mage, still with the earthquakes, and now with the attractive Tevinter fiancé. I don’t know, I think that would sell books all by itself," Theron said, with a smile, before attempting to eat the soup. He looked a little green as he swallowed it. "So, not to be rude, but what did I just put in my mouth?"
"Isn’t that always the question with you?" Kalli laughed some more, and dipped bread in her soup. "It’s good," she assured Fenris. "He’s just bad at food. I think it’s a Dalish thing. Pickled acorns…"
Fenris looked amused, but struggled not to look smug. It would be terribly rude, he decided, to take nearly that much pride in having accidentally made Theron uncomfortable. "It’s whipped egg soup with quail broth, a popular dish from Carastes. One of the few Tevinter things I’ve come to like."
"The bread is amazing," Theron said, around a mouthful of it. "Is that onion and thyme? Very talented cook."
"Yes, I’ve been very happy with her, and she’s been … little displeased with us." Fenris hid a smile behind his wine. "He did not rescue me from the dreaded clutches of the Imperium, but we did rescue her, which was an excellent decision on our part." Never mind that it had been Cormac’s decision, and he almost took the mage’s face off over it.
"Haven’t regretted it for a second," Artemis agreed. He tore off a piece of bread and nibbled at it as he considered. "Though I wonder sometimes if she has, especially after that, uh, incident with the flowers."
Stirring his soup, Fenris quirked an eyebrow at his mage. "On the contrary," he said, "I think she benefited more from that than we did." At Artemis’s quizzical look, Fenris added, "Evie? The florist? She and Orana?"
"That’s— What? That’s a thing?"
"That’s a thing," Fenris assured him, though he wondered how Artie hadn’t noticed. His fool mage. Terribly observant when it came to order and cleanliness but sometimes terribly obtuse when it came to people. Not that he was any better, when he thought about it.
Artemis sat back, peering at the kitchen and looking like he was re-evaluating the past few months of his life.
Theron and Kalli exchanged sidelong glances. "Do we want to know about the ‘incident with the flowers’?" Theron asked.
"No," Artemis and Fenris said at once.