[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 322
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Isabela ♀, Merrill♀, Fenris ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Elfy humour, philosophies on revolution
Notes: Isabela brings Merrill a gift with a story behind it. Fenris tries to decipher a gift from his sister.
"Why don’t the guards chase me any more?" Merrill asked, peering over her shoulder as she walked, grass tickling bare feet. "I know that one saw us come in here. He looked very disapproving, but he’s still standing there."
"No viscount, Kitten," Izzy replied, bumping Merrill with her hip. "The garden’s as much ours as anyone’s now."
"Oh! Well, that’s rather nice."
"Almost takes the fun out of it, though." Isabela shrugged one shoulder and took a bite of the pear in her hand. "Maybe if I throw the pear at him, he’ll chase us. But I still prefer Anton’s garden." She waggled her eyebrows at Merrill.
"Oh yes. His garden does have such nice flowers." Merrill’s tiny, mischievous smirk said she knew what Izzy really meant.
"So, do you know anything about Dalish jewellery?" Isabela asked, sprawling out on a mound covered in tiny plants.
"Some," Merrill said. "That’s more crafters’ work, but I wear some, and I like it. What did you want to know?"
"Well, I ran into an old friend, a while back, and we found this ring. And nobody in Kirkwall seems to know what to make of it. But, it seemed like just your kind of thing." Sticking the pear between her teeth, Isabela fished a ring out of her pouch and held it out to Merrill. It really was Merrill’s kind of thing, once she thought on it, but she’d tried to sell it, first. Three copper for a wooden ring. It had to be worth more than that, and maybe Merrill would be the one to see the value in it. It wasn’t like Isabela could turn an actual profit on it, and it would look adorable on Merrill. Of course, Merrill always looked adorable, so that couldn’t much be attributed to the ring.
Merrill took the ring, carefully, turning it over. "Is this for me? It’s beautiful! And you don’t know what it is?"
"Well, I thought so, right up until you asked me that," Isabela joked, around another bite of the pear, still gesturing with the fruit. "It’s a wooden ring. Dalish design."
"It’s sylvanwood! Rare as diamonds. You only find it in very old, very wild places," Merrill explained with a tiny, thoughtful smile. "The carvings tell the story of the Betrayal. The Dread Wolf tricking all the gods away from the world."
"Sounds like my kind of guy!" Isabela laughed and sat up. Rare as diamonds? Dammit. She knew it had been worth something! She peered at the ring as Merrill turned it over in her hands, trying to find the story in the carven shapes. "So… what did he do to the gods, exactly? What little elvish stuff I know I learned from Ass-face, so." Izzy shrugged.
Merrill chuckled, still marvelling at the ring as they walked. Then she started to speak, and her entire body language changed. She straightened her back, spoke more slowly, more assertively. "Long ago, there were two clans of gods. The Creators looked after the People. The Forgotten Ones preyed upon us. And one god who was neither. Fen’Harel, the Dread Wolf." She looked up at Isabela, pleased to see her listening intently. "He was kin to the Creators, and in the old days, often helped them in their endless war against the Forgotten Ones."
"I take it he got tired of helping," Izzy said.
"That he did," Merrill agreed, almost sadly. "Fen’Harel was clever. He could walk among both clans of gods without fear, and both believed he was one of them. He went to each side, and told them the other had forged a terrible weapon, a blade that would end the war. He told the Creators it was forged in the heavens, and the Forgotten Ones, that it was forged in the abyss. And when the gods went seeking it, he sealed them both in their realms forever. Now he alone is left in the world."
"Betrayal sounds bad. Maybe next time I’ll go with flowers. Maybe some daisies. Maybe some lime." Isabela laughed, and Merrill laughed with her.
"What would Carver think?" The chuckling slowed eventually. "But, it’s not bad, exactly… This was made for a Keeper, you see. Guarding a clan from the Dread Wolf is a Keeper’s place. It’s a very sweet memento." Merrill looked away. "Thank you."
"Well, you’re supposed to be Keeper one day, right?" Isabela asked, looking up at Merrill’s obviously sad expression. "It’s just an advance investment, then."
"Was supposed to be Keeper." Merrill sighed. "I don’t even have a clan any more."
"Well, Theron still likes you. I’m sure other people do, too! It’s not like they really have any other m— qualified people, right?" Izzy shrugged and tossed Merrill a pear. "And screw them anyway. You came to the city. You can have your own clan, if you want. The alienage loves you."
Merrill’s smile was small, but it was there, ready to blossom into a full grin with the right prodding. "A clan of city elves? Well. They really ought to know their heritage, anyway. Maybe we could adopt Fenris into the clan."
Isabela snorted. "You’re better off adopting Cormac. He’s elfier than Fenris."
And there was that grin Izzy had been trying to provoke. "I could make him my First," she teased. "As long as he’s not in charge of giving our clan their vallaslin. I don’t need an entire alienage full of Ass-faces, thank you."
"Spoilsport." Izzy nudged Merrill with her elbow and took another loud bite of her pear.
Fenris was not brooding. No, no, he was just … lost in contemplation, the book from his sister open across his lap, one leg over the arm of the chair. Stupid chairs were designed for tall people. Nothing in this city was a proper size.
The book, though. It told the story of Shartan, supposedly from the man’s own perspective, and parts of it likely were, but only parts. It had become something else, something political, over time, and he could see those parts clearly. He wondered what had been there, before it was changed. But, the point was that Shartan had led the elves of Tevinter to something like freedom, by joining with Andraste, who was raiding the North. The alliance was one of necessity, but it seemed the South had far less prejudice toward elves, in general, and there seemed to be a concern only of ‘foreigners’, and not of ‘elves’. Quite different to what had come after.
But, what did it mean, really? What was the purpose in giving him this? Was this what she thought of him, that he would be some hero? Some saviour of the elven people of the Imperium? … The thought did appeal, limitedly, but he had a home, now. He had a husband. He had everything to live for. Was it wrong of him to want to keep that? And at the same time, he’d fought for freedom, before, and Varania… she hadn’t wanted that freedom. But, he had. And he knew others did, as well. What did she expect of him?
"Interesting book?" Artemis’s face appeared over the top of the chair, and he folded his arms across the winged back. "Or simply an interesting page? You’ve been staring at the same one for the past half hour."
Fenris peered up at his husband. "Ah. It’s…" He turned the page automatically, though he’d lost track of where he was in the story. "Interesting. Yes." He didn’t realise he was tugging at one ear until Artie reached down and tugged at the other one.
"‘Interesting. Yes’," Artemis repeated, dropping his voice an octave.
"I do not sound like that," Fenris huffed, as Artemis twisted, bending to read over Fenris’s shoulder.
"Oh. Oh, is that…?" Artie trailed off, arcing his eyebrows at Fenris. He never thought Fenris would even look at this book again, let alone read it.
"It is the book Varania sent. Mostly propaganda, but…some things change little, even in a thousand years. An autobiography, not a religious text, and… even now, despite everything, he remains a slave to those in power. I can’t tell what was changed, but I can tell that it was changed. The rhythm changes, the words are wrong, the… sentiment is suddenly moralistic. The man is a revolutionary, not a holy man. His allies matter, not their gods. And then it’s all about the glory of Andraste, for pages on end, before it goes right." Fenris shook his head. "Did you know?" he asked, turning to a page he had marked and handing the book to Artemis.
"Know what?" Artemis asked, brows furrowed, even as he took the book. He skimmed the page, until he stumbled on a familiar name: his own.
Artie straightened, resting the book on the back of the chair and looking again, to make sure he’d read that correctly. He thought of Cormac’s speech, the night before their wedding. "My brother did name me after a magister…" he said distractedly, "but no. I didn’t know this." Cormac hadn’t said anything about Shartan, let alone that he was the slave the original Artemis had married. Artie looked at Fenris over the book. "Apparently your sister did. Does this make you my Shartan?" He teased Fenris gently, trying to gauge his reaction. His husband seemed more troubled than pleased with this revelation.
"I do not know that I want to be a revolutionary. Maybe it isn’t fair, but I have you, I have all this. I could have been, once, before there was so much to lose, to sacrifice. I don’t want to lose you over people I don’t know at all." Ears twitching, Fenris looked hopefully up at the man he loved. "War is for the young," he decided, "for those with nothing to lose and those who have already lost it all. I think it is not for me. Am I wrong? Is this what she thinks of me? What she expects of me?" He shook his head, again. "We have money. We have contacts. Perhaps we can go about this in another way, but I will not bring the wrath of the Imperium to our door, to you and Orana."
Fenris looked so earnest. Artie smiled down at him and carded a hand through his hair, brushing the strands back from Fenris’s eyes. "We built this house, you and I, and we’ve already done our share of cutting down magisters. But if you decide you want to tear down the Imperium, I’d be at your side."
"To provide a few well-placed earthquakes?"
"It’s what husbands do." Artemis bent over the top of the chair to press a kiss to Fenris’s forehead. "But, perhaps you are reading too much into this? Your sister may have just read my name in one of your letters and appreciated the irony."
"She told me I ‘invited trouble’," Fenris huffed, twisting at his ear. "Perhaps this is what she meant. Perhaps she wishes me to invite more. I thought it was the privilege of the free man to look after his own interests, to serve none but himself, but… there are so many more questions than I have answers. And perhaps you are right. I am reading too much into a jest worthy of your brothers."
"And that, my dear, is what siblings do," Artemis drawled. "Also, I wouldn’t bring this up around Anders, unless you want Justice telling you what he thinks about the privileges and duties of the free man."
Fenris hummed, considering, as Artie handed back the book. "This is a point," he murmured. He’d heard Justice say as much once, that it was the duty of the free to help those who weren’t. Was it his duty, then?
No. Fenris’s duty was to his husband, to this family.
Artemis rested his chin on his folded arms. He opened his mouth, only to close it and purse his lips instead.
"What is it?" Fenris asked, eyeing him warily. "You have that look."
"I don’t have a look," Artie protested, to which Fenris simply raised an eyebrow. "Okay, I have a look. I was just thinking… if you’re thinking about this so much, you could always just ask your sister."
"I could also slam my knob in the door, for all the joy it would give me," Fenris grumbled, stretching up to kiss Artemis’s cheek. "But, it is true. You’re right. If I want to know what she was thinking, I’ll have to ask her."