[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 225
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Fenris ♂, Varric ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D1)
Warnings: Angsty past gets weirder
Notes: Varric comes bearing news for Fenris. This news goes over rather like a lead brick.
Orana opened the door to find Varric on the other side of it. "Messere Varric!" She smiled at him, honestly delighted, but he didn’t smile back.
"I’m here to see Broody. I don’t know if it’s good news for him, but I’m prepared either way." Varric held up a bottle of what looked like better whiskey than one could get at the Hanged Man.
Orana had the sense to look concerned, stepping back and waving Varric into the foyer. "Come sit in the lounge, and I’ll find Messere Fenris for you. You know where the glasses are, in there, don’t you?"
Varric followed Orana into a room he’d seen countless times, over the years. "By now, I feel like I live in your lounge. Have I mentioned I love what you’ve done with this place?"
"Every time you visit, messere." Orana winked and ducked out, leaving Varric to arrange the whiskey and paperwork.
The envelope from Maevaris was thick. He’d thought Thorold might be a shit about doing him a favour, but he hadn’t expected to learn that his cousin had died — recently, too, according to the letter. His wife, Maevaris, said she was looking for something to do, to pass the time, and his letter had been the answer to her troubles. He figured she probably had some other troubles to deal with, too, knowing the kind of shit Thorold used to get up to, and he wondered if that was what had gotten his cousin killed. He’d write back. He’d ask. Seemed the least he could do for a widow in the family — maybe clear up some matters of dwarven politics. Still, he hadn’t opened the packet of information about Fenris. He’d been tempted to get a look before he let Broody at it, but… Wasn’t right. He couldn’t do it. And he wondered when he’d developed a sense of ethics that went further than ‘don’t steal from your friends and don’t leave your brother in the Deep Roads’.
Fenris appeared in the doorway within minutes, finding Varric on the couch, paperwork stacked on the table in front of him. "Varric," he greeted the dwarf with a nod of his head, stare darting to the paperwork, then to the whiskey in his hands before returning to his face.
"Hey, Broody," Varric said. He held up the bottle. "Drink? It’s the good stuff. For real, this time, or I swear someone’s cousin is losing a finger."
Fenris lips formed the ghost of a smile. "Will I need the drink?" he asked, sitting next to Varric and eyeing the envelope and its contents more openly. "Assuming that’s what I think it is?"
"It is, and I honestly have no idea." Varric shrugged. "And forget about ‘needing’ a drink, anyway. What about wanting one? You should. It’s better than that swill Rivaini swears by." Varric poured for him anyway and slid the paperwork Fenris’s way. Fenris accepted the glass without complaint, taking a fortifying gulp before he started thumbing through the papers.
There seemed to be no explanation, just a sheaf of documents meticulously copied from official records, and a handful of observations that suggested an investigator had been involved. Of course, Fenris had paid an investigator to do the same, but a magister’s secrets were always much more difficult to acquire, and judging from what he was seeing, there were secrets he would wish he hadn’t known. That… couldn’t be right. There was no reasonable way that made any sense at all.
"Have you read these?" Fenris asked Varric, one hand yanking at the tip of his ear, as if to reassure himself it still existed.
"Didn’t seem right. Why? What’d you find?" Varric leaned across the corner of the table to glance at the page Fenris seemed troubled by. He needn’t have bothered, as, after a moment more, Fenris handed it to him.
"Fastidious records are kept of blood and family, throughout the Imperium. Mage blood, for obvious reasons, and slaves, for the purposes of improving the stock — at least where elves are concerned." Fenris’s hands gripped the edge of the table, and his voice was just a little too calm. "Read the name of my father."
"Someone we—" Varric stopped, as his eyes lit on that line, darting back up to Fenris’s ears. "There has to be a mistake."
"Perhaps," Fenris said dully, his face as white as his knuckles, as white as the noise in his head.
Varric looked back at the paper, scanning the line again and still shaking his head in disbelief. "He’s human," he said. "Wasn’t he human? I mean, I know you’re not particularly elfy, but you’re still too elfy to be half human."
"Perhaps," Fenris said again, reaching for the glass of whiskey. He downed it all in one pull.
"Shit, Broody," Varric muttered. He started flipping through the rest of the papers. The name ‘Leto’ dominated the top of the pile. "Were you… in some of tournament?" Varric asked. "These look like bookkeeping records."
"I don’t know," Fenris said distractedly, pouring himself another generous drink. Varric was glad he brought the bottle. "I have no memory of one, if I did."
"It’s fair to say you were the favourite," Varric noted, after a few minutes study, "but there’s some interesting notes in here. Allegations of some very serious cheating, although they’re blaming Danarius, not you. And since it’s his tournament, and the prize is his to give, nobody really followed up. Just some folks complaining the fight was fixed, because they lost a bet, I’m guessing, but … they all say the same thing, pretty much."
Varric slid a page back across the table, and Fenris read it. "Shield runes? Who in their right mind would give shield runes to a slave?" Fenris looked horrified, and then he just looked lost, like he was staring right through the table. Some nagging thought clattered in the back of his head, almost a memory — lifting his arm and batting aside a sword. He could feel it, and sitting there, his arm followed the same path through the air, three or four times. He could feel the strike, and he knew both that it should have cut and that he’d only been bruised.
"I blocked a sword with my bare arm. That’s what they’re talking about. Some of it, anyway. I don’t remember. I remember, but I don’t remember." Fenris shook his head frustratedly. "Maybe there was a rune. This— I lost my memory, Varric. It’s there, but it’s not there. All I had to do was win. I don’t even know why, but all I had to do was win."
Varric thumbed through the next few pages, but that was the last mention of ‘Leto’. "Shit," he said again. "Broody… what do you remember? The earliest thing?" If that were too personal a question, he suspected Fenris would tell him in so many words. Or more likely without words.
As it was, Fenris didn’t answer for a long moment, stare glazed and vacant enough that Varric wondered if he’d even heard him. Fenris’s stare dropped to his arms, to the palms he turned face-up. He traced the lyrium lines of one hand with the fingers of the other. "Getting these," he finally answered. "Or… after. During? It’s… it’s hazy." But he remembered pain, remembered choking on his screams, and the skin around his markings ached in sympathy. There were holes even in that memory. "The pain… it blocked out everything before it. It was the only thing I knew for what felt like an age."
"I wouldn’t be so sure it was the pain that erased those memories," Varric said.
Fenris’s gaze cut to the side, and he tugged at one twitching ear again.
"I know the two of you aren’t exactly the best of friends, but this sounds like something to bring up with Anders. He knows healing and he knows magic, and both of those things are part of whatever’s going on here," Varric pointed out, reaching for his own drink. "And maybe talk to Daisy. I know she’s been talking to your sister, lately. I know, I know, you don’t want to talk to your sister, she’s dead to you, but she still has her memories, as far as we know, and I bet she told Daisy a few things."
"Consorting with abominations and blood mages," Fenris drawled. "Is this what my life has come to?"
"Hey, it’s up to you, but if you want to get to the bottom of this, I can’t think of two better people to take it to — except maybe actually talking to your sister, but we both know that’s not going to happen." Varric shrugged and swigged his whiskey. "It’s up to you. You’re a free man."
"But, am I really?" Fenris asked, gesturing across the spread of papers. "Everything I knew— I’m not even a proper elf."
"When were you ever a proper elf, Broody?"
Artemis swept into the house, already halfway through a conversation with Fenris that Fenris hasn’t been a part of. "I mean, I’m glad you killed the dragon before it could eat you," he was saying, "but couldn’t you have killed the thing more… neatly? Or, I don’t know farther away? The mines stink of dead dragon." His rambling trailed off when he realised that no elf had come to the door. Usually Fenris greeted him with a kiss after a long day like this, until he was already drinking. "Fenris?"
Orana coughed politely into her fist and pointed at the lounge. Artie nodded in understanding. He found his elf on the lounge couch, sprawled halfway across it with a nearly empty bottle of whiskey cradled to his chest. There were papers everywhere, spread out across the table, over Fenris’s legs, the floor. Artemis tutted and bent to scoop them up, sneaking a peek as he squared the edges.
"Is this Tevene?" he muttered to himself, picking up a few more sheets and finding similar lettering. "This is Tevene."
"Makes for great reading," Fenris slurred from the couch, peering at the bottle in his hand, at the way the light played across the amber liquid inside.
"Oh, so we are awake, are we?" Artemis teased, swatting Fenris’s cheek with the rolled-up sheets of paper. Fenris whined and rubbed his cheek, and Artie peered more closely at him. "I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen you this drunk. Everything all right?"
"Everything is shit," Fenris declared, taking another swig, before reluctantly jamming the bottle between two couch cushions, so he could sit up. He immediately regretted sitting up as he thumbed through a stack of papers, before handing one to Artemis. "Read that. The third line, mostly. I was sober when I started reading it. Now, I’m not."
Artie took the papers from Fenris, eyeing his elf. This, at least, was in Common, and Artemis recognised two names on that list: Leto and Danarius. "This…" Artemis squinted at the paper, holding it closer to his face as though it would make more sense that way. "This can’t be right. Tell me they put Danarius’s name in the wrong place." His eyes were wide when he lifted them from the paper.
"That was my thought, as well," Fenris admitted, before handing over another document. "In light of this, however, it seems a great deal less likely." He paused for a moment, before remembering that Artemis couldn’t read Tevene. "It’s a transfer of ownership. My mother didn’t belong to him, until she was pregnant, and the law strongly encourages the transfer of any slave pregnant with a magister’s child into that magister’s household. That’s the transfer type. Somewhere near the middle of the page. The only evidence I have that he was incorrect is—" He pointed to his ear. "I cannot be half human. Half-humans don’t look like I do."
Artemis sat next to him, on the other side of the bottle of whiskey, still looking over papers he couldn’t read. Half-humans may not look like Fenris, but they did look like Danarius. He wondered if Fenris was what a ‘three-quarter’ elf looked like. Aloud, he said, "There might be some mistake." He fumbled for words of comfort and came up short. Artie set aside the papers, leaving the rest in a mess on the table, and brushed back Fenris’s hair, his thumb brushing along the shell of one ear. "Where did you get these?" He tilted his chin towards the stack he’d just set down.
"Varric’s cousin is a magister. Married a magister. Something. His cousin the dwarf married a non-dwarf magister, and now the magister is his cousin too." Fenris wasn’t very good at words for family, sometimes, and drunk, he was particularly bad at them. "She — the magister, I mean — pulled some records for him. You’re thinking something. I know that look. That’s the look that tells me you have some terrible idea that you don’t want to tell me, but it can’t be any more terrible than what I already know, so just say it."
Artie shook his head, enfolding Fenris’s hand in his. "I… I was just thinking about what you just said. About half-humans looking, well, human. So you may not be half-human, but perhaps Danarius was?" The last thing he wanted to do was argue in favour of this. What Danarius had put Fenris through was despicable enough, but to treat his own son that way?
Fenris groaned. "Fasta vass. That’s…" Strangely reasonable, actually, now that he thought about it. And completely terrifying in whole new ways. "I suspect I am about to owe Varric’s cousin a very large favour. I have to know. The records will be clear, either way. And the question remains, if I’m only half an elf, what else did he do to me? Frankly, I prefer the other option."
He kissed Artemis gently, on the corner of the mouth. "You do not love me less, now that I am less of an elf?" he teased. "I know how important elven culture is to you."
"You’re just the right amount of elf," Artemis said, "and still more than I can handle." He kissed Fenris back sweetly, palms cupping his elf’s face. He was relieved to hear Fenris joking, at least. "Come to bed? We can forget about this until the morning, if you like. The papers aren’t going anywhere."
"Or I could drunkenly have my way with you, right here, until neither of us can climb the stairs," Fenris suggested, absolutely sure there was something he was supposed to be angry about and equally sure that his mage could make him forget about it. Mages. Forgetting. He shook his head. "Did I mention that I’m very drunk? Very drunk and trying not to think about any of these papers or the fact that I have to go talk to Anders at something like a decent hour, tomorrow."
"I’m sure I could find a way to distract you," Artemis said with a mischievous smile. He put the whiskey on the table and scooted closer, nibbling at the point of one ear. "Should I be concerned about you visiting Anders? Willingly? Did you wrench your shoulder again?"
"It’s … this." Fenris waved his hand to indicate the papers heaped all over the table. He stretched out along the couch again, parting his legs around Artemis and then tugging his mage down against him. "Weren’t you going to help me not think about this? Besides, I find him slightly more tolerable, since he put some notably good ideas into your head."
Artemis stretched out next to Fenris, walking sparks up Fenris’s arm with his fingers. "And here I thought you preferred my bad ideas."