[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 363
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Varric ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Interesting Tevinter furniture, other people’s presumed relationships, discussions of lyrium poisoning
Notes: More delightful gifts from Tevinter.
The shipments from Tevinter had kept coming. How much shit could one man own, Varric wondered, as the latest round of furniture was hauled into the house. This seemed to be outdoor furniture, from the look of it — all stone and metal, carved into wild shapes. Dragons dominated, but vines of strange flowers Varric had never seen in any garden were also a strong theme. He directed the haulers to bring it all out to the back — to the wild garden they hadn’t yet approached.
Elaiodora was deep in discussion with some of the new arrivals. Varric had never imagined this many elves in one place. He’d always thought of elves as few and rare — a handful in each Dalish clan, a smattering in alienages throughout Thedas, some up in Tevinter — but this was really bringing home the idea of how many slaves were in Tevinter, how many elves were in Tevinter, if tens of them still arrived with each shipment of furniture. The house was getting crowded, and he was glad he’d invited Merrill and Theron to come talk to some of them. There had to be room somewhere else. Ancestors knew, it wasn’t that he didn’t want to help, but he only had the one estate, and it was becoming very obvious how much less of an estate it was than what Danarius had maintained.
The flash of a hand caught his eye, and he gestured for a few more pieces to be taken to the back, before he went to talk to Elaiodora. She had really become his guide and interpreter, in this venture.
"We’ve come to some conclusions, Messere Varric," Elaiodora said, using the title as if she’d been saying it all her life. "Those of us who have been here the longest, we believe we have found a way to earn our keep. To provide for the ones just now coming in, and the upkeep of this house."
A house. He’d thought of it as a mansion, really. Nearly a bloody palace, with the way he kept getting turned around in the halls. "I’m going to remind you that it’s not necessary, but I welcome any contributions you’d like to make."
"The, ah, special furniture is in this shipment. The furniture that could be on your Page Six." Elaiodora smiled slyly. "We think we should offer romantic afternoons to the nobles of Kirkwall."
"I’m not running a brothel!" Varric exclaimed. "Absolutely not!"
"No, not a brothel! We wouldn’t be providing services. Only goods. Tea, sweet desserts, exciting furniture, privacy." Elaiodora leaned in closer. "There is always a market for discreet and delightful places to meet one’s paramours. I do not think the South is so different in that regard."
A romantic getaway. It was the sort of thing the Orlesians would find scandalous and irresistible, and Varric found himself considering it. "Isabela would never leave," Varric muttered. He eyed some of the furniture being moved around, furniture Isabela might even need to explain to him later, judging by the shape.
"You could provide copies of the Gazette for an added fee," Elaiodora suggested with a coy grin. "Or at least a sampling of Page Six stories?"
Varric barked a laugh. "Meredith would close us down within five hours, if we tried that." Which didn’t make the idea less appealing. He did so love picturing her foaming at the mouth.
"Perhaps not if we invite her to use the furniture," Elaiodora added.
"That’s an image I did not need in my day." Varric shook his head, then eyed a crate being carried in. "Is that books? Books go to the Amell estate."
"Anders?" Cormac called out, as he opened the door at the top of the stairs. He was thankful he’d taken Varric’s advice about lighting the cellar stairs behind the second door, because stumbling down in the dark with a case of books that weighed as much as the dog was a sincerely distressing concept. Around the corner, down the other hall, door on the right. He propped the box against the wall, to get the door open. "Anders? I got a box for you. It’s more Tevinter books Varric sent over. Merrill’s going to be by the clinic, later, with some of the new elves."
He kicked the door shut and stumbled down the last flight of stairs into the room below — only a half-level, but still further than he wanted to fall.
Anders met Cormac at the bottom of the stairs, taking the box from him with ink-stained fingers. "More elves?" he asked, wishing he could say he was surprised. He could still picture the faces of the first ‘shipment’ of elves from Danarius’s estate, the hollow-eyed stares that looked no higher than his chin. He suspected these new elves would be the same, and he reminded Justice to try not to scare them.
Anders set the books down next to the desk, where his manifesto was still set out, ink drying. "I don’t suppose these are all Orlesian romances?" he asked.
"The top few aren’t his handwriting. I didn’t figure it was worth unpacking them all, until we got them down here. How are the shelves holding up?" Cormac teased, wedging the top layer of books out of the box.
"It’ll take more than a few volumes from a magister’s library to bend them," Anders pointed out, glancing at the covers, as he moved to start putting them away.
Cormac studied the next book for a long time. Opened it, checked the front and back, shook out the pages. No, this was the real thing. "Is this… I think I’m seeing things. Is this a copy of ‘Hard in Hightown’?"
"You’re joking." Anders squinted at Cormac, waiting for him to say he was. When Cormac didn’t, Anders took the book from him, examined it inside and out and failed to choke back a laugh. "Okay, now I’m picturing Danarius, sitting by the fire with this open on his lap. I wonder if he was a fan." Maybe Fenris and Artie’s wedding would have gone differently if Danarius had known Varric was there. "Not quite an Orlesian romance, but there are quite a few books in here." He pushed a few books around in the crate, just to check.
"Here, here, put it down and see what it falls open to. It’s got to be loose somewhere!" Cormac cackled and grabbed at the book, missing because he was laughing too hard. "On second thought, let’s not. I don’t want to know that much about him and his passions for bold Southern ladies."
He set the book down flat and went back to unpacking, finally hitting some in the style they’d come to know as research journals. With a sharp intake of breath, he pulled one out and opened it. Cormac didn’t read Tevene well enough for this, but the sketches and a few words were usually enough to get a general idea. "That’s a dwarf," he muttered, squinting at the sketch on a right-hand page. "And that’s… something about lyrium mining? I can’t read the labels on this. They don’t make sense."
"Lyrium mining accidents," Anders replied, all humour gone from his voice. Justice stirred at the mention of lyrium, but Anders pushed him back. As much as he would like the extra light, he would rather it didn’t come in the form of glowing skin. Anders skimmed through a few pages and tried not to look as sick as he felt. "He was researching lyrium exposure and how it mutated these dwarves." A few of the sketches were barely recognisable as dwarves, and in the back of his mind, Justice was the disturbed sort of quiet. "This… could be very useful." He set it on his desk next to the manifesto.
Anders was dying to know how so much lyrium hadn’t warped Fenris in this way. And, moreover, he was dying to make sure Fenris stayed un-warped.
"He really thought he was on to something, didn’t he?" Cormac muttered, unpacking the next journal. "This looks like more of his work. At least, I think it is. Elves, this time, and the lines look familiar. Not the same, but similar. And there are measurements." He flipped through the pages and then paused, eyes caught on a phrase. "They had books. Elves. Before Tevinter. Somewhere in one of these shipments, there are going to be elven books."
Shoving the book into Anders’s hand, he tapped the line he’d been looking at. He didn’t read much Tevene, but that phrase stood out from a few places in his father’s library. He’d always assumed the books in question were Dalish, but in the context of these lines, in the context of the things Paivel had said, all those years ago, of course there had been books before Tevinter. And all of them probably didn’t sink into the ground with Arlathan. But, had they survived? Were these just copies? Would any of them even be in any of these boxes, or were the kind of thing that was kept for scholarly research, in towers and colleges?
Nothing in the box. All the books were in Tevene, from the printed ones to the ones scrawled in Danarius’s own hand, and Cormac sighed. "He had them. He had them in his hands and he read them."
"Perhaps in another shipment?" Anders suggested without much faith. "Have we gone through all the boxes?" He scanned the line Cormac pointed at, trying to decide if it was familiar. He’d spent quite a bit of time in the library at Kinloch Hold, after all, but little of it actually reading, and now he wished he’d spent more time in the Elvish section. At least then he might remember a few titles from staring at the spines. "I am afraid I am not familiar with these texts. Why would Danarius need them?"
"I don’t know. But, they’re definitely Elvish-language. I don’t read enough Tevene to know what he was doing with them, just that he read them. And that tells me that something about his research went back to ‘Continuity with the Beyond’ and ‘Living Apart’." Cormac shrugged, sorting the other books into piles by subject. "I’m guessing this is something about breaching the Veil, or possibly … dividing yourself to pass through it? Being in two places at once? Wasn’t there an Archon who claimed to have done that?"
"Lovias," Anders supplied without even thinking about it. He may not have paid much attention during his history lessons, but Fen’Din wouldn’t shut up about him. "He’s the one who choked on a fishbone and died. And that’s a thought, but this research seems more focused on elves. Not just as subjects, but in their texts, in their history. Is there something I’m missing there? You’re the one interested in elf culture. Or… well, literal elf culture."
"I know the Dalish. Nobody knows much before that — well, I’m sure some people do, but I don’t read Tevene, so…" Cormac shrugged again. "I do know they were said to be immortal, once, and that humans stole their immortality somehow. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know dragons live a real fuck of a long time, so it might be like that. I know Merrill’s clan doesn’t trust spirits, but I know not all the clans are like that. I know they say that the Dread Wolf locked their gods in the Beyond, which is the Fade, which makes not trusting spirits seem a little silly. I know they say the Dread Wolf locking up the gods is why Arlathan fell — but isn’t that what any culture blames their fall on? Losing their gods?" Cormac shook his head. "If we’re talking about what elves have to do with Fenris, beyond the obvious, then the Fade, the Dread Wolf, and immortality seem like key points that are likely to keep coming up. He has got a wolf name, after all, and he’s definitely still alive with all that lyrium under his skin."
Anders nodded, counting the books as he stacked them on the desk. "Looks like I have quite a bit of reading to do. And I don’t mean Hard in Hightown."