[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 351
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Carver Hawke ♂, Merrill ♀, Theron Mahariel ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Notes: Merrill comes to terms with the changes in her life. Carver and Theron help.
Carver opened the door to the sound of sobbing, and without thinking, he set the basket he carried on the edge of the nearest shelf and drew his sword, as he edged into the room. He found Merrill alone, crying in front of her magic mirror.
"She’s gone… she’s really gone…" But, she wasn’t speaking to him. Hadn’t even noticed he’d come in, yet, and he rested his sword against the wall in exactly the way he knew he shouldn’t, before he crossed the room, to her side.
"Merrill?" Carver wanted to get her attention before he touched her.
Her sobs cut off mid-breath, and she straightened, rubbing her nose on the edge of her sleeve and composing herself before she could face him. "Carver," she said, turning her tear-stained face his way. "How did all of this happen?"
"Hey." Carver wiped away the tears falling down her cheeks and pulled her into his arms. This he could do, physical contact to let her know he was there. The rest was not so easy. "It’s not your fault, you know. She should have listened to you in the first place. It was all one big misunderstanding, really. A really giant, fucked-up misunderstanding."
Consoling. He never really was good at consoling. The intentions were there, but the words were not.
"Why didn’t any of them listen to me?" Merrill cried against Carver’s chest. "All this time I thought… I could help them. Save them. But, they won’t let me, will they?" Her voice changed, bitter and biting. "They’ll destroy themselves to escape my help."
"You can’t help people without their consent. You can’t help them, if they don’t want to be helped." Carver rubbed her back, gently. "I’m sorry, Merrill."
Merrill tucked her face against Carver’s shoulder, watching the rise and fall of his chest, for a few moments. "No, I suppose I can’t. All the time I’ve wasted… Maybe… maybe it’s time I stopped living for them. My people will kill me, if I go back."
"Time to get some new people, don’t you think?" The words were warm with humour, and they reverberated through Carver’s chest. "Good thing you’ve already got some waiting."
"Your family are wonderful people, Carver, but… I don’t know that they’re my people," Merrill pointed out.
"Our people are on the other side of that door. Think of all the people we helped who wanted our help, all these years. What do you think they think of you? The whole Alienage adores you, Merrill. And they think I’m pretty fun, too, but you’re the one with the pointy ears. They like you better." Carver stroked Merrill’s cheek and squeezed her chin.
"Do you—?" Merrill started, but a knock on the door interrupted. "I don’t want to see anyone, yet," she said, and Carver nodded.
"Let me go tell whoever it is that you’re not feeling well, and you’ll see them when you’re a little better." With a quick kiss, Carver made for the door, opening it on an elf rummaging in a basket.
"And how’s my favourite girl?" Theron asked, before looking up and seeing Carver in the doorway. "Well, that’s… not you, I suppose."
"Is that Theron?" Merrill called from inside. "Oh, let him in, Carver!"
Carver stepped aside, squinting suspiciously as Theron brought in what appeared to be a basket of Dalish food. "I’m still pissed about that ‘Ser Shemlen’ thing, you know."
"You’ll get over it. It was memorable, that’s what matters. People are arguing about Merrill, for the first time in years. The demon’s gone and we’ve stopped losing hunters to the wood. We have more children than the clan’s seen since we left Ferelden. Things are going to be all right." Theron turned to look at Merrill, really seeing her for the first time. "Oh, what? Crying? The Hero of Sundermount is crying? Have your shem and I got to go put someone to the sword?"
"Keep your sword in your pants, elf," Carver grumbled.
"Don’t worry, Carver," Theron replied with a wink. "There’s only one Hawke I’d unsheathe my sword around and you are not him."
Carver made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat. He was going to punch Cormac for this later.
"Hero of Sundermount?" Merrill huffed through a teary smile. She wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand, but they still glimmered. "Failure of Sundermount, more like."
"Failure?" Theron said,pressing a hand to his chest. "How do you say that? You faced down a demon, and a powerful one at that. Destroyed it at great pain to yourself. All to make sure we didn’t lose sight of our past. I never should have doubted you, Merrill, and I am sorry that I ever did." Theron set the basket down on her table, reaching in and offering her a jar. "Pickled almonds?"
"Gross," Carver mumbled.
"Did you come all the way down here to bring me pickled almonds?" Merrill asked, sniffling a bit between words.
"Not entirely," Theron admitted, unpacking the basket onto the table. "I mean, there’s some yoghurt, here, and I think those are the stuffed pancakes you like — the chestnut ones, and —"
"Theron!" Merrill laughed weakly. "Did you really come all the way down here to bring me food?"
"Sort of…" Theron grinned and sat on the edge of the table, handing Merrill a sesame-honey cake, as he took another for himself. "There are still people who miss you, up there, and others who want to apologise. It’s…" Theron shrugged. "It’s too tense to bring you back, right now, because if you came back, it would have to be as the Keeper. So, I came down to bring you their apologies and best wishes. Their very tasty best wishes, I might add."
Merrill’s answering laugh was little more than a huff of air as she turned the cake over in her hands. Best wishes. Did other members of her clan really think that or was Theron saying all that just to make her feel better? "I guess the clan doesn’t have a Keeper any more, does it?" There were no other mages that she knew of, certainly none of the proper age and training… "Who is leading them?"
Theron paused, mid-chew, answering with a half-shrug as he swallowed. "Paivel, mostly," he said. "I help where I can. We’re making it work."
Merrill considered that, nibbling on her cake to give her hands something to do. It took a moment to process, her clan led by a non-mage. Her clan led by anyone other than Marethari. "Paivel is wise," she said, nodding. "The clan will be in good hands with him. And with you, I suppose, as long as Kalli keeps an eye on you."
"See, but then it wouldn’t really be in my hands, would it? It would be in her hands. It should be in your hands, and it would have been if anyone else had been there to see what happened…" Theron shook his head. "Though I wish I could return to a point where I knew less of demons. Do they teach you about that stuff in the templars, Ser Shemlen?"
Carver glared, from where he was helping himself to a little cake of unknown contents. "Knock it off, point-ears. I have a name," he growled, deliberately not using Theron’s. "And no, they don’t teach us about that stuff. They think they do, but they don’t. Maybe if they did, Cullen would sleep at night."
"So, your templars have actually faced demons! It’s not just encouraging propaganda!" Theron grinned and Carver elbowed him off the edge of the table.
"Cullen’s the only survivor I know," Carver pointed out. "Everyone else I’ve heard of facing a demon that strong died. Well, except my siblings, but they’re not templars. They teach us all these things about demons and blood mages, and almost none of it’s true. People get complacent, thinking that these hungry runaways, most of whom have never touched blood magic or demons, are the worst of the worst. And then the real thing shows up, and nobody knows what to do with it."
"How’d you do it?" Theron asked, knowing damn well he’d been there for it.
"You know what else I’ve fought? Darkspawn." Carver laughed, bitterly, and stuffed a cake in his mouth, holding up a finger, as he tried to figure out what he was eating. It was better than most of the elf-food Cormac liked, but then, so was almost everything Merrill cooked. He had started to suspect Cormac just had horrible taste in food, and it was nothing to do with the Dalish. "Don’t panic, and keep hitting it with things until something sticks."
Theron hummed around a bite of cake, ears perking. "A sound tactic, useful for many occasions."
"Why? Is that how you cook?" Carver snarked as he picked at the cake in his hand. "That would explain so much."
Theron clicked his tongue and pursed his lips in distaste. "Rude, Ser Shemlen. You are unworthy of my delicious and bounteous foodstuffs." He shifted the basket further away from Carver and eyed the cake in his hand as though he meant to steal it back.
Carver held his stare and took a large bite just to nettle him.
"Ignore him, Theron," Merrill sighed. "I love your cooking."
Theron looked appeased. "Anyway. Merrill… I am trying to make the clan see reason, and some of them are."
The ‘but’ went unspoken, but it hung between them nonetheless.
"I don’t know if I could ever earn their trust again, Theron," Merrill said. "Marethari.. or the demon within Marethari… She turned the clan so completely against me. I don’t know if I can undo all the damage she has wrought." She shook her head when Theron started to protest. "And I’m not sure I want to try, Theron."
"What will you do with your free time, then? You might have to find a hobby!" Theron teased, eyes uncertain. He spread his hands, half a cake still in one. "Merrill of the Dales, Hero of Sundermount, Hunter of Demons. You could make a name for yourself, you know."
"You just want a hero to make a famous story about." Merrill plucked the cake from Theron’s hand and nibbled at it. "I thought maybe I’d teach the people, here. The clan aren’t the only elves in the Marches. These people aren’t stupid, and they didn’t turn away from what we once knew. They’ve never known it. They know only what the Chantry teaches, because we don’t talk to them. The stories are lost to them — the gods are barely names taken in vain."
"How do they not know? Weren’t we all the same people?" Theron looked horrified, as he remembered the things he’d seen in the cities of Ferelden, on his quest for another shemlen to give him earthquakes. He’d always thought they were stubborn fools, but he never imagined how deep their ignorance went. Even Kalli, he’d just assumed was poorly educated, rather than a sign of a more general ignorance.
"How much do we not know?" Merrill asked, rhetorically. "We were all of Arlathan, once, but I can’t make this eluvian work. They’ve just lived so long in the cities, they’ve forgotten everything else — generations without any of it. We came out of Tevinter with almost nothing, and some had less than others."
"Speaking of the eluvian…" Theron shrugged inquisitively.
"It still doesn’t work. Or maybe it does, but there’s no one on the other side. I don’t know what to try." Merrill looked over her shoulder. "I thought I might travel. Anders says there are books — Tevinter books — that talk about eluvians, at Kinloch Hold. Assuming they still exist, I thought I might try to go and read them."
"Please don’t." Carver looked horrified. "They’ll — I don’t know, but if you walk into that tower, I don’t think you’ll walk back out, even if I’m with you."
There was no question that Carver would be with her, no hesitation, and Merrill squeezed his arm, green eyes expressing the depth of her gratitude. "I’m sure we could think of something. And there are other ruins, other hidden places where our ancestors once lived. There is so much left to explore and recover. Perhaps… perhaps there might be another eluvian out there, somewhere." She spoke with more hope than she felt, but Carver looked less concerned.
Theron tilted his head, eyeing Merrill speculatively. "The clan wouldn’t be the same without you around. No, I know you haven’t been with us for a while, but. Even then, you were always just down the mountain. You were never really gone. Do you know what I mean?"
"I do," Merrill said with a soft smile. Gone was what Marethari was, what Merrill’s old life was. "But I need to find my way outside of the clan. You know that."
"I suppose," Theron sighed. "I’ll just have to find new ways to traumatise Ser Shemlen with my illustrious cooking."
"That’s not how you pronounce ‘disastrous’," Carver muttered.