[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 326
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Merrill ♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Kallian Tabris ♀, Theron Mahariel ♂, Hahren Paivel ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Threats of violence, epic poetry
Notes: Theron tells an epic tale, and Paivel cleans up this mess.
[ Master Post ]
Merrill’s clansmen were waiting outside, hunters armed with bows and swords, with leather armour and chainmail.
"Aneth ara," Theron greeted them, his smile guarded.
"We know the Keeper came here," a hunter cut him off. "What’s going on? Where is she?" He tried to peer past Theron and Merrill. Carver’s hand was tight around Merrill’s.
"Where is Paivel?" Theron asked, rubbing one eye with the heel of his palm. "I will tell the tale, but I will tell it for Paivel."
A murmur ran through the crowd. Whatever had happened had been the stuff of legend if Theron wouldn’t tell it without Paivel’s ear. Still, another hunter grabbed the first and pointed at Merrill. "Look at her, Fenarel. She’s covered in blood!"
"Get Paivel," was all Theron would say, and he rested the point of his sword on the ground, squaring his shoulders in challenge to any who would think to come past him. "I will not tell it twice, today."
"Why should you tell it at all?" the second hunter argued. "She summoned a demon and killed the Keeper with it. She doesn’t deserve a story, Theron."
"That is not your place to decide, but it is mine." Theron’s eyes met hers, unblinking. "And your concerns should not be for what Merrill may have done, today. When help was needed, where were you? I was here, when you were not. The tale is mine, and I will speak. But, someone go fetch Paivel."
"You dare invoke for her?" the hunter argued again.
"What I invoke is mine alone. It is for me to tell my tale." Theron remained unmoved, until the crowd parted. "Hahren." Theron bowed.
"I am told you bear a tale," Paivel said, shooing a group of hunters away from a stone, so he could sit.
Theron took a deep breath, tilting up his chin and pausing, before he began to speak. "We found the Keeper in this cave; at first, her disappointment strong, concealed herself from us a while, but when we found the demon gone, her former First confronted. Lady mage to lady mage, at last of spirit things they spoke, though neither did the spirit trust, one to the other gave less faith than she could grant that spirit. And so our Keeper told to us the way in which she took it in freeing from its prison carved this spirit once Tevinter-bound to keep it closed inside her."
Carver butted in, "You know what we call that in town? An abomination. And we put them to death."
Kalli kicked Carver in the shin, and Theron went on. "She did it to protect the clan, she said without a second thought, from Merrill’s mad and wicked ways sure as they were to curse us all with demons brought upon us. And yet, she did that self-same thing she did forbid her First to do; the spirit drove her to strange ends, corrupting what she knew was right until a demon led us. What good could come of staying here, with shemlen creeping up the peak, if she so feared the spirit here would change us to some ill effect? And yet she kept the clan here." He paused there, letting that sink in. The Keeper had kept the clan in an unsafe place because she wasn’t herself, any longer — she was a demon.
When one of the crowd opened their mouth to speak, he started again. "She told us then the only way to drive the spirit out the world was if we slew her where she stood and with her slew the demon too. But, Merrill did refuse her." He spoke the words slowly and clearly. "And then she let the demon out, a sky-tall monster, red and black, shaking rocks down from above, with shoulders spiked, varterral-broad, beaked head bowed ‘neath the stone roof. It turned on us, majestic proud, with magic in its mighty fists, but force was not what made it fierce; it stole the voices of the dead and with them did accuse us. Tamlen did call out to me, to blame me for his tragic end — that guilt is mine up to a point and then it becomes his again. His voice, though, wrung my heart out. The spirit nearly felled us then, with accusations bold renewed, we slowed before its mighty strikes, we stumbled in our risen grief, Ser Shemlen had to save us."
"Really, Theron? Ser Shemlen?" Carver looked less than entirely amused, but Merrill squeezed his hand.
"He drove its magic clean away, and Merrill’s vanished with it, too, and with those gone, the voices ceased; its power to impersonate swift driven from our senses. But, oh, the beast stood twice enraged, its own voice cutting through the gloom. Reason, it accused us of and compromise, just after, as though these things were loathsome. We struck it then our faith renewed but magic can’t be stayed for long the spark came to the demon first and reaching out its glowing hands it clenched us tight in magic. I cried out to my goddess then, eternal Lady of the Hunt, for some sign how to break this beast and drive it back from whence it came before it could escape us. Ser Shemlen saved us once again —"
"I have a name, you know," Carver muttered, a little too loudly, but Theron just kept talking.
"— bleeding all its power out. He called for me to strike the beast, to pierce it while it, weakened, swayed. My blade was quick to follow. And when the spirit finally fell, collapsing back into itself, retreating to familiar forms, the Keeper stood before us then, with praise for our great power. Then Merrill looked at last relieved, to see our Keeper safe and well. A new respect had gentled both, the spirit set behind them then, and nothing more to part them. But, I had heard our Keeper well and took to heart the words she spoke: to slay the demon, she had said, to part it from this world of ours would mean her death as well as its. And I, convinced the demon stood wrapped in betrayal even now, to lead us down a darker path lit with the Keeper’s kindly smiles, unfalt’ringly reminded. So, Merrill took her blade in hand, apology swift from her lips. My sword rose up in case she missed, but sadness roiling in her eyes, she boldly slew the demon. You know as well as I, hahren, no magic flows within my blood, and yet I saw, as I see you, the spirit flee her wounds and fade releasing in her death. And this is how it came to be: our Keeper fell to demon’s lure, endangering us to a one, until we stood to face her wrath, and on my word did slay her."
Theron finally drew breath, and the silence that fell was heavy, expectant, as his audience waited to see if the flow of words would continue. Paivel seemed to age ten years in the space of ten seconds. He looked at Kalli. "Is this true?" he asked softly.
"Every word," Kalli said. "The Keeper is dead."
Carver still clutched Merrill’s bloody hand in his. The hunter who had spoken earlier, pointing out the blood on her clothes, still glared at Merrill, her anger still simmering. "Monster," she snarled.
"The only monster was the demon," said Carver. "If you want to blame someone for the mess, blame him."
The hunter folded her arms across her chest and stared Carver down with yellow eyes. "There would have been no demon if it weren’t for this little flat-eared bitch." She reached for the swords at her back.
"What did you call her?" Carver pulled Merrill behind him, hefting his own sword.
"Hold, all of you!" Paivel stood, hands raised palm out. Around him, hunters stilled with their hands on their weapons. "Our clan has lost enough, especially today! Sheathe your blades!"
"Hahren, what our clan has lost, we’ve lost because of this traitor!" The yellow-eyed hunter pointed a sword at Merrill — or, rather, at Ser Shemlen’s shoulder, which blocked her from view.
"The demon on this mountain predates her birth," Paivel pointed out. "She is not responsible for bringing it here. I know a little of demons, and only a little, but the stories teach us they are difficult to resist. They pick at our fears and our desires, until we tell them yes. Until we accept their offers to fix the problem, for a price. Is this so different from the Dread Wolf, may his gaze be turned away?"
An uncomfortable murmuring ran through the crowd.
"Mahariel says it’s true. Have you ever known him to lie?" a raised voice came from the back of the group, and another quickly followed.
"I’m not saying he’s a liar. I’m saying he’s a shite-mouthed idiot. He doesn’t tell lies, but does he ever tell the whole truth? Or have you forgotten about the thing with Tamlen?"
"You leave him out of this," Theron warned. "He was— I was — You leave him out of this." He paused to compose himself. "We weren’t children, then, but maybe we should have been. It was stupid, but it was just as stupid on both our parts. Do you hold it against him that he said the same things I did? We made a mistake. He has nothing to do with this."
"What a demon wants is freedom," Carver said, quietly, armour creaking as he shifted his weight. "Freedom to pursue its purpose. Just like any spirit, really. It has a goal, and it needs freedom to pursue it. It wanted out, and Merrill wouldn’t come."
"Then why is she here now?" the hunter with the hand on her sword asked.
"I was — we were — following the Keeper," Merrill said. "I planned to throw myself on her mercy and ask for her help, but…" It still hadn’t quite hit her, not yet. ‘Dead’ was not a word that went with ‘Marethari’, not when Merrill could still hear her voice so clearly.
"I told you, I will only tell the story once," Theron said. "You have heard it. Now let us pass."
He stared down Fenarel and the hunter at his side, and there was that silence again, that heavy, expectant silence. "She’s not worth it," Fenarel muttered at last, turning away. The woman at his side looked around, but she was the only one still with a hand on her sword. Paivel caught her eye and shook his head. She spit at the ground in front of Merrill, but her hand slipped from her sword’s hilt.
Surrounded by Theron, Kalli, and Carver, Merrill made her way through the crowd, her people parting like water around them. No one else spit at her, and some of the faces were even sympathetic.
Still, Merrill heard all the voices the demon had summoned, voices she knew would haunt her sleep, alongside Marethari’s.
"I don’t know what we’ll do," Theron breathed, as they made their way down the mountain. "But, if I have anything to say about it, you’ll be welcome up here any time."
"And since he doesn’t have anything to say about it, the two of you are welcome with us," Kalli decided, patting Merrill’s shoulder. "Assuming he doesn’t get us tied to trees and fed to dogs, anyway."
"I’m not getting us fed to dogs," Theron groaned. "I’m getting us fed to Dog Lords, which I seem to recall you having less of a problem with at Earthquake Boy’s wedding."
Carver looked horrified, and Kalli pressed the back of her hand to his chest, shaking her head. "Don’t bother," she said. "He’s always like this. Twice as much when he’s narrowly escaped death."