[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 169
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Carver Hawke ♂, Merrill ♀, Artemis Hawke ♂, Theron Mahariel ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Dick jokes, elf humour, sibling rivalry, tense situation
Notes: Theron Mahariel, Dalish poet, saviour of the — what do you mean it still doesn’t work?
"Are you sure that’s not just wishful thinking?" Theron asked, arcing an eyebrow in her direction.
"No. I mean yes, I’m sure," Merrill replied. "I’ve tried the password before, a few times, and each time it… I feel like it wants to work. I think we might just be off from a word or two."
Theron sighed and pursed his lips as though to keep from saying something he’d regret. He tapped a finger against the book as he considered. "This book isn’t as old as it should be," he said. "This is a copy. The Elvish we’re looking for would be old, older than this book suggests. Maybe… maybe not ‘ma’shiral’ but ‘mala shiral’? It’s an older form, but…" He shrugged.
Merrill shrugged as well, waving everyone toward the far side of the room. "We’re not going to know, unless we try," she said. "If it doesn’t work, I’ll show you what happens with the original phrase, too. You have to see it to understand why I’m so sure."
Theron stepped back, tugging Artemis with him. "I don’t suppose you’ve got anything that would help if this goes really, really wrong, do you?" He looked a bit ill, remembering the last time he’d watched someone touch one of these — the same one, actually, even if it had been different, then.
"What, no. Merrill— Merrill, what are you doing?" Carver still stood by the door, mostly out of the way, but close enough to be concerned. "Okay, no. You’re about to cast a spell on something ancient and broken that killed people, and you’re doing it in front of the templar."
"Oh, Carver, don’t be silly. Go stand with your brother, so you don’t get hurt. Not that it’s done anything that would hurt someone, since I fixed it, but just in case." Merrill flipped her hand at him, unconcerned. "Just ask Artemis. He’s watched me try to get it working."
"I have," Artemis answered, stepping back anyway. "And no one died." His eyes widened. "I didn’t just jinx it, did I? I just jinxed it." Muttering under his breath, he summoned his rock armour, adjusting the plates of stone so they acted more like a wall, shielding Theron and Carver as well as him.
Merrill took a few deep, steadying breaths and raised her hands, magic gathering under her fingertips. No blood magic, not this time, not if she wanted Mahariel to trust her. "Mala shiral in abelas tu bora var vhenas," she incanted. Magic made the air heavy, like just before a rainstorm, and the surface of the eluvian rippled and trembled. Merrill held her breath, hoping.
"Did it work?" Theron asked, peering over plates of stone.
Carver stared at his brother. "Remind me again how the Arishok managed to throw your guts on the floor?"
"This is a new trick," Artemis explained, jutting his chin at the stone. "One inspired by and dedicated to him. And to my poor intestines."
Merrill hesitated, hands prodding at the eluvian as she squinted into its cloudy depths, before she answered Theron. "Nnnno, but… That’s the best, yet. Let it settle for a moment, and I’ll show you what I mean. It’s different. We’re closer."
"We don’t actually speak the same language, do we?" Theron realised, stepping out from behind the stone to look at the book, again. "You’d have thought of that, if we did. You only know the words the Keeper taught you, and I had to learn the stories. The stories are different. They’re poetic, so they’re easier to remember. This looks like…" He squinted and picked up the charcoal stick from next to the book, scrawling on one of the bits of paper piled around it. "The rhythm’s wrong. That’s not an easy sentence."
Merrill recited it again, without the magic, exaggerating the words. "It stumbles, doesn’t it." She took the charcoal from him and scribbled a few more words next to his notes.
"It’s not going to be ‘arla’ for ‘vhenas’," Theron decided. "That makes it worse, not better. I’m pretty sure ‘var vhenas’ is right. That shows up in other places. ‘Aravas’ for ‘shiral’, maybe, though. That’s a good catch. ‘Mala aravas’ feels better on the tongue. Also goes with ‘var vhenas’."
Merrill bent to read the scrawled words over his shoulder. His handwriting was rushed but legible. "Mala aravas…" she began.
"Except, wait," Theron murmured. "We’re treating this like poetry, ancient poetry, so we need to read it that way. It’s written ‘mala aravas’ but pronounced ‘mal’aravas’."
"Mal’aravas," Merrill repeated, nodding. "That’s easier to say. Which is… probably the point. So. Mal’aravas in abelas tu bora var vhenas. Yes, that flows much better."
"Do you understand any of this?" Carver muttered to Artemis, who shrugged, grinning.
"I don’t know any Elvish, but it’s nice to listen to," Artie said.
Theron chuckled, laying down the charcoal. "I tried to teach him a little when we were younger," he said over his shoulder as he double-checked the password’s phrasing. "He was hopeless!"
"I just had… other interests on my mind," Artemis replied. Carver rolled his eyes.
"Shall we try again?" Merrill asked, and Carver was pleased to see that excited gleam in her eyes again. That alone was worth dealing with his brother, the elf-groping, and the mention of earthquakes. Yet another reason he liked the barracks. No earthquakes.
Theron nodded and moved back toward Artemis. "I’m just going to go stand behind the shem, again. That seems safe," he joked.
Merrill waited until the stone was in place and they were all behind it, before she tried again. The air again thickened with magic, sharpened with the smell of rain. "Mal’aravas in abelas tu bora var vhenas," she intoned, and the mirror hummed, the lyrium in the frame singing out. The surface of the glass rippled like a pool struck by a drop, but it remained hopelessly hazy.
"Don’t!" Theron cried out, as Merrill drew closer, pressing her fingers against the eluvian’s rippling surface, but it was still just glass.
"You’ve seen it do that before," Merrill guessed, turning to look into the glass at a different angle. "I’m sure it’s almost working. I just can’t make anything out." She huffed and squinted at it, calling into the glass, "Hello? Is anyone there? Dirthara ma emma renan?"
But, no response came, and in a few moments, the surface was again still.
"Oh, Elgar’nan," Merrill sighed, her shoulders sagging. "We were so close."
"Well, that was new," Artemis said, keeping his tone hopeful for her sake. "At least you know you did something right." He banished the stone and stepped cautiously forward, poking the mirror’s surface with the tip of one finger. He frowned at the dirt he found there.
Theron ran a hand over his face, his skin pale. "It might have worked," he said. "This eluvian might have just connected with another that’s isolated or in the dark or… also broken." He shrugged, throwing his arms out. "You need at least two eluvian for this to work the way it’s supposed to, you know."
"Yes, yes, that’s true," Merrill sighed. She shook her head. "I just don’t know what else to try."
"You’ll get it," Theron assured her, not sure how he felt about that fact, but pretty sure he was right. "You started out with a broken piece of cursed glass, and now it almost works. But, Creators, Merrill, if you get it working… Just don’t work on it by yourself. If anything happens, someone needs to be able to tell the story, or someone else is going to repeat the same mistake. I’m not even sure it’s the eluvian you should be worried about or what might be living in those ruins. I’m assuming they’re all in ruins, like this one was. I can’t imagine it would be so difficult to find information, if they were just … sitting out somewhere."
"I can’t work on it alone," Merrill pointed out. "I don’t know what to try. It’ll be someone else’s idea, if anything."
Carver finally stepped away from the wall, hesitantly moving closer to the eluvian. His eyes never left it, as he wrapped his arms around Merrill. Mages. Why was everything in his life always defined by mages? He wasn’t sure, but that was the most terrifying magic he’d seen since the last time Bethany gave him nightmares. There was something wrong about the way the mirror rippled, and he wished Merrill would give it up, but he also wished his sister would give up creepy death magic. There was nothing for it. If he wanted Merrill, the mirror was part of the package. It was probably less creepy than Bethany’s work, in the end, he told himself. This was some kind of communication thing. That was some kind of … zombie thing.
"I’m out of ideas," he volunteered. "Not that I had any to begin with."
"Maybe you should ask his healer friend with the legs up to the sky," Theron suggested, cocking a thumb at Artemis. "Even if he doesn’t have any ideas, he’ll sure give me some ideas."
Artie smirked. "Anders certainly is very good at giving… ideas."
Carver glared at him balefully over Merrill’s head. "Get out."
"We’ve already asked Anders," Merrill said as everyone ignored Carver. "He helped us get as far as we did before you came here. But… he might have some new ideas…"
Carver groaned, pressing his forehead against the top of Merrill’s head. "Just please don’t invite Cormac too," he muttered. "I can’t deal with all four of them. I will punch something."