[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 324
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Merrill♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Kallian Tabris ♀, Theron Mahariel ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Elfy humour, discussions on demons, dorky elf kids making trouble
Notes: A conversation with the Keeper that doesn’t go nearly as well as Merrill had hoped.
Morning came, but the Keeper did not return. The elves around the fire eyed Merrill suspiciously all through breakfast, but Theron just kept talking. "So, I know you’ve all heard weird things about Merrill, but do you guys know what she’s actually working on? It’s something that was made when the elves still ruled Thedas. It’s something our ancestors made, that the shem — the Imperium — took from us and corrupted, and she’s trying to fix it so we can use it again."
"You were there, Mahariel. It almost killed you," one of the scouts scoffed, winging a bit of bread over the fire at him.
"That’s right. I was there." Theron’s eyes drifted up from the flames between them and settled on the scout’s. "So, maybe I know what I’m talking about. And it wasn’t the eluvian that we lost Tamlen to, it was the darkspawn that came out of it. I was lucky. They tainted everything they touched, maybe including the eluvian. I don’t know. But, there’s no taint any more. A friend from the city helped out — a few friends, really. It’s almost there. It almost works. I saw it."
"Well, the Keeper says she made a deal with a demon to even get that far." Another elf served herself some pottage and took a seat.
"Well, that’s what the Keeper says, but the Keeper’s not the one working on this. The Keeper insists this thing is evil and doesn’t belong in the world, just because the darkspawn touched it, as far as I can tell. What about me? They touched me, too." Theron turned, meeting all the eyes on him, but no one spoke. "I didn’t think so. So, why don’t we ask Merrill? Tell us the story, Merrill. How did this happen? How did you make it work?"
Carver shifted nervously, picking at his food. He knew crowds that moved like this — he’d seen this as a soldier, and again as a templar. This was a crowd uncertain of a threat, and that could become certainty at any time. He wondered how long Theron could hold them off.
"There is a demon at the top of Sundermount — a spirit of some kind, trapped in the war that was fought on this mountain. He called out, but not just to me. He called to the Keeper as well. And we went to him, together, to see what he was," Merrill explained. "And he offered us favours, just to show his good nature. He asked nothing in return. I believe he meant to show us what he was capable of, so we would want it — so we would trade and make deals. But, the Keeper accepted nothing and came back down. I went back, and I took his offer. I accepted his gift. And he has called to me since, and I have never returned to him, because I do not trust him. Still, what he gave me worked. And I have come now to throw myself on the Keeper’s mercy and ask if she knows what I do not. To ask if she knows any lore she has not told me about the eluvian. But, she isn’t here. I don’t know what to do, now…"
"You tried to trick a demon?" one of the hunters laughed. "She tricked a demon. That’s great, if it’s true. Maybe they’ll tell stories about you, one day!"
"Or maybe she’s trying to trick us," the suspicious scout pointed out.
Merrill shook her head, poking at the food in her bowl. "I’m not trying to trick anyone," she said. "I just want to know why the eluvian isn’t working… If it did, if I could fix it, there is so much we could do." Her eyes took on that fever-bright quality they did when she was excited. "Our people have already lost so much. Imagine if we could get back just a fragment of our past?"
She’d said as much to Marethari before, more than once, but always her words fell on deaf ears. Maybe without the Keeper here, they would listen?
Yet she still saw so much suspicion when she looked around. "Anyway. I had hoped to ask the Keeper for her advice, but… I do not know where she has gone."
"She was heading up the mountain, last I saw of her," one of the hunters said. "Said something about the shrine to Mythal. She should have returned by now, though."
Merrill set down her bowl. The shrine… that was near where the demon was bound. "The shrine. Of course. Perhaps we might run into her."
"Kalli and I are coming with you," Theron said, grabbing another slice of nug from where several hung over the fire. "Just give us a bit. I won’t get in the way, but I want to make sure there’s someone there to break things up, if it gets… I don’t want anyone getting hurt." It was the safest way of saying he didn’t want Marethari killing her without witnesses, in front of the rest of the clan. The Keeper had been strange, of late, and Theron had his concerns. He held up a finger as he backed away from the fire, stuffing the slice of meat into his mouth. "Right back," he mumbled around it.
Merrill looked awkwardly around the circle of people, some who’d been there since the conversation started, others who’d filtered in later. Early in the day, there was always food for hours. Late in the day, it happened again. There were always scouts and hunters in the woods, so not everyone slept the same hours, but everyone would get at least one meal with some part of the clan. It kept them strong, and they kept the clan safe.
Kalli appeared first, leading a small horde of children to the fire. "Stay here. Theron and I have to go help our friends, for a little bit. Don’t burn down the aravel, while we’re gone."
"Creators, mum, would you just go? When have we ever—" an adolescent elf started, only to be cut off by a glare from her brother. "Okay, but that was only once."
Carver hid a smile behind his hand. Kids were the same everywhere, it seemed.
"Destroying aravels?" Merrill teased. "She must take after you, Theron."
The children’s ears pricked up, and they looked at their father curiously. "What’s this, dad?" asked the girl, a smile creeping across her lips.
"That was also only once," Theron reminded Merrill, "and the earthquake wasn’t my fault." He grinned. "Well, maybe it was."
"Right. Up the mountain?" Carver turned on his heel and headed for the main path snaking up the mountainside. "Is this the right way? Do I care? Either way, I’m walking away from this conversation."
Theron cackled, and the elves followed, Merrill jogging to catch up with Carver in case he got lost. Or eaten by spiders.
Merrill needn’t have worried. Carver knew the faster ways up the mountain by now, and no spider found his plate easy to digest.
By the time they reached the shrine, Carver was covered in spider guts and debating asking his brothers to invent a spell that just chased spiders away from a place. Sandal could make it into a rune. They could fill the cave with them. There would be— And that was Marethari, thankfully still turned away from them, gazing across the valley from behind the shrine.
Kalli pulled her husband behind a broken monument in the cemetery.
"Welcome home, da’len," Marethari greeted Merrill, without an ounce of welcome in her voice or a second glance at Carver.
"This isn’t a homecoming, Keeper. Why is the clan even here? You should have moved on ages ago!" Merrill’s concern and irritation were obvious in her voice.
"The clan still has business here, da’len. We will leave when it is time." Marethari’s word would be final. She expected no argument, even from Merrill.
"It was time three years ago! You can’t stay here! Eventually the humans will force you to leave." Merrill explained it slowly, as if speaking to a difficult child.
"There are plenty of hiding places in these mountains," Marethari pointed out, looking away. "We will stay until my business is done."
And there it was — her business, not the clan’s.
"If you are not returning to us," Marethari asked, eyeing Merrill up and down, "what has brought you back?"
"How can Merrill fix the eluvian?" Carver asked, just so Marethari would have to look at him and acknowledge that he was there.
Marethari scoffed, lip curling in disgust. "I wouldn’t restore that cursed thing, even if I could. It has stolen life and promise from my clan already. And this was the least treacherous thing it was capable of doing." Marethari turned a pleading look on Merrill. "You must come to your senses, Merrill. This evil cannot be allowed in our world."
"It is a part of our world!" Merrill protested. "It has been in our world for centuries! No one is pained more by Tamlen’s loss than I, but the mirror wasn’t responsible." Merrill shook her head. They’d had this argument before. "But I’m wasting my time. You’d rather fear the past than reclaim it. This is pointless, vhenan." She squeezed Carver’s hand. "I don’t know why I thought talking to her would help."
Merrill shook her head. "Finish your prayers to Mythal, Keeper. Carver and I have work to do."
But, Marethari turned, continuing up the path, further up the mountain and toward the cave the demon was trapped in. Merrill stared curiously after her, for a long moment.
"Are you sure you want do this?" Carver asked, quietly.
"Not even a tiny bit," Merrill whispered, still looking after the Keeper, as Kalli and Theron reappeared behind them.
"It’s not too late to go back, you know," Carver offered.
"I have to finish this. I’ve sacrificed too much to just walk away," Merrill insisted, and really, Carver would give her that. He knew exactly what she meant.
"No one more pained than you?" Theron teased, leaning on Merrill’s shoulder.
Merrill blushed. "No, that was foolish. I don’t know what I was thinking."
"You were thinking there was more heart still in you than in our fool Keeper," Kalli muttered, looking up the path, after her.
"Vhenan! You can’t just—" Theron didn’t look shocked so much as fearful.
"Or what, we’ll end up back in the city? You like the city. I grew up in a city. What I don’t like is tyrants who lie and expect mindless obedience." Kalli crossed her arms and watched Theron, daring him to disagree.
"That makes two of us," Carver volunteered.
Theron still looked vaguely uncomfortable, but he didn’t argue. "Vhenan, it still brings ill luck to say such things."
"‘Ill luck’ is exactly what this clan has had," Kalli replied, folding her arms. "I can’t say we have much to lose."
With a defeated sigh, Theron paused to offer a prayer to Mythal, and Merrill bowed her head at his side while Kalli and Carver stood awkwardly by. They would need Mythal’s guidance now more than ever.