[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 10
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Merrill ♀, Artemis Hawke ♂
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: A few colourful turns of phrase
Notes: Merrill moves back to the alienage. The eluvian continues to be difficult.
Merrill was supposed to be one of the first people to move back in to the Alienage, as construction on the first terrace finished up. She and Hahren Reeba needed to take the initiative and show the people the new buildings were safe, and also to be there to offer assistance, as other families started moving back in. The first terrace was thirty-two homes in eight towers, with ramps along the front of the buildings, to make moving people and furniture to the upper levels easier. The buildings were etched with scenes from Dalish legend, knotwork, and leaping halla, and vines were just starting to come up, where they’d be wound around the balusters on the ramps. The roofs, as promised, would be gardens, and Merrill could see people on them, spreading the soil needed for planting.
Of course, it was vital that she move back in as quickly as possible, and the dates conflicted with a series of classes Carver was teaching on defending against two-handed swords. So, she was determined to do the best she could, without him. Artemis was a force mage, and he would be just as much help for pushing furniture around as Carver would have been.
She lingered a bit longer, running her fingers over the sturdy, new stonework, before heading across town to talk Artemis and Bodhan into helping her move back out of the Amell estate.
It turned out that Merrill had to do very little convincing and that making sad eyes at the people in question was all that was needed. Still, she wondered at the wisdom of her choice when Artie’s magic sent one of her chairs smacking into a wall.
"Sorry!" he called back to her, his next pull of magic gentle as though in apology to the battered chair. "Usually when I move furniture, Cormac’s on the other end with shields."
"Just remember that I’m on the other end this time, messere," said Bodhan, "and that I don’t have shields of any sort?"
"Right. Sorry, Bodhan."
Pulling, Artie discovered, worked better than shoving, and he walked through Hightown with much of Merrill’s furniture trailing along behind him like a gaggle of ducklings. Merrill followed at the end to make sure he didn’t break anything and offered a smiling wave to those who stopped to stare at them.
"A cart," Artie decided after a while. "This would have made a lot more sense with a cart."
"Yes," Merrill agreed. "I’d have suggested it, but you looked like you knew what you were doing." She paused. "Should I get one? I could get one. Here, let’s stop at the market and see if we can borrow one."
Smiling, she approached an armourer’s stand. "Hello! You look like you move a lot of heavy things. May we borrow your cart? Just to go as far as Lowtown. We’ll bring it right back. I’m afraid we didn’t think this through very well."
Olaf studied her closely, as he rearranged his wares to cover the empty space left by the last customer’s purchase. "My cart? You want me to just lend my cart to some strange elf and a mage with the sense of a sack of turnips?"
"Yes!" Merrill nodded. "Oh, but he’s much smarter than turnips. And I’m not strange. I’m an elf like any other! Or, wait, no. You meant that the other way, didn’t you. We’re nobles! Lots of people know us. That’s Lord Hawke and I’m Baroness Merrill. We just… Moving furniture is a bit of an adventure."
"Oh, you’re nobles. Yep." Olaf nodded. "That explains it." He chuckled. "Well, I don’t want anything bad happening to my cart, so how about you leave me two sovereigns, and if you bring it back with no damage, I’ll give you one back."
"Oh! Like a rental! Yes, of course! What a good idea!" Merrill smiled so brightly that Olaf began to have some concerns about her wits. After a moment of digging in her pouch, she came up with a handful of coins, mostly silver and copper, but she picked out two pieces of gold and set them on the counter.
"Thank you," Artemis muttered, looking terribly embarrassed. "Let’s try this again, shall we?"
The trip to Lowtown went quite a bit quicker on wheels, with marginally less shoving and pulling from Artemis, who still pulled from the front, gaining a newfound appreciation for the horses who used to pull his family’s wagon. He walked the cart to a stop at the top of the stairs leading into the Alienage and took a moment to peer in at the construction. Artie hadn’t been by in a few days, and the building closest the stairs had still been rough the last time he saw it.
"What do you think?" Merrill asked, circling the cart and its piled furniture to stand next to Artemis.
"I think it looks like a whole new city," Artie said, marvelling at the fresh stonework. He wanted to touch the shapes carved into the stone. "Our drawings didn’t quite do it justice. But… do you like it? Are you happy with it? You’re the one living here."
"Well, it’s not finished, of course, but I think it’s lovely." Merrill’s smile was infectious. "And I’m a bit less worried about the roof caving in now."
"Always good! Um." Artemis considered the stairs, considered the cart. "We need a ramp. Or something we can use as a ramp. That would probably be a good idea, and I don’t often have those."
"Oh, of course, they haven’t put it in yet. There’s supposed to be a merchant’s ramp— but you know that." Merrill looked around before running down the stairs and waving to one of the workers laying stone for the next terrace. After some animated conversation, the two returned with long boards.
"This is a little steep. You make sure you keep a good grip on that when you lower it down or it’s going to go rolling off into one of the foundation pits," the dwarf warned, eyeing the cart of furniture.
"Don’t worry! We can do this!" Merrill crouched and cast a spell on the boards, vines snaking up to grab onto the cart and pull it forward and down. She backed away, slowly, coaxing the vines to follow and bring the cart down with them. Once all the wheels were back on the ground, she dispelled the vines and checked the cart, to be sure it hadn’t sprouted any leaves.
The dwarven worker eyed her with some combination of awe and horror.
"It’s just a little magic. Completely harmless." Merrill assured her. "Don’t you have mages helping with the construction?"
"They don’t have plants that do their bidding!" the dwarf protested. "Surfacers! What will you think of next?"
"We like to keep you on your toes," Artie said, looking around distractedly. "Ah! I see you’ve put the vines in. That will be gorgeous when it grows in."
After thanking the dwarf for her help, Merrill led Artie and the cart to her new home. And she had to remind herself that this was hers. She’d spent most of her life living out of an aravel and the last few years living out of a rat-infested apartment, and while that had been hers, too, seeing it hadn’t made her back straighten with pride in quite the same way.
"Come on in," she said, gesturing Artemis inside. "It’s bigger than I’m used to. I’m not sure I have enough furniture to fill it up. Maybe I could get a few more chairs, over here in the corner."
"Or you could use the space to practice dancing," Artemis said, looking around. The windows let in the afternoon sun, making the rooms airier than what Artie was used to with dwarf construction. Natia had clearly outdone herself. "There’s enough floorspace in here for a small ballroom!"
Merrill laughed and waved him aside. "No, there isn’t!"
"A very small ballroom. Minuscule. Probably ill-fitting for Carver, then."
"And look! I have real rooms! And a bath that isn’t also the kitchen table!" Merrill pointed to an open door. "A whole room just for washing! And a room for sleeping, and a room for… I guess I have a room for working, now. Probably good. I’m supposed to do noble things. I bet I’m supposed to have a desk. And we can put the eluvian in there, too." She paused, looking into one room and then the next. "Bedroom in the corner or in the middle? Which room would you want to wake up in? I can’t decide…"
She lowered the back of the cart to start pulling furniture down. There wasn’t much, but it had been enough to make her old place look crowded. This building up instead of out idea left so much more room for everyone. Maybe she could finally have enough shelves for all her books.
Artemis helped her fuss with the furniture. The bed, they’d decided, would go in the room that caught the best morning sunlight, since Merrill loved waking to daylight and sun-soaked sheets. Carver, Artie suspected, on the nights he slept over, would burrow into the sheets and pull a blanket over his head to avoid the sun. He’d never been much of a morning person.
They left space for more shelves and a comfortable chair Merrill didn’t own yet, and the eluvian was the last thing they wrangled in from the cart. Merrill had thrown a sheet over it for the move, and now her sigh was wistful as she looked at it. Months. It had been months since she’d done any work on it, and a part of her wondered if there was still a point to it.
"Sheet on or off?" Artemis asked, noticing the way she was just staring at the eluvian.
"Off. It’s… I tried so hard to get it to work, but… I don’t know. It’s still very pretty." Merrill lifted a corner of the sheet and blew at the dust that clung to a long curve of bone, in the frame. "Maybe if we just cleaned it up a little. I’m sure there’s something I’m missing, but I just don’t know where else to look! Maybe I should go back to those ruins, now that the darkspawn are gone and the Blight is over. Maybe I missed something. Did I tell you about the ruins? Oh, but Theron should tell you, really. He saw so much more than I did. We were just there looking for a friend, when I was there. I took nothing but this glass… But, there were statues of human warriors along the walls, and also one of Falon’Din. It was the strangest thing."
Merrill yanked the sheet off, and an enormous cloud of dust billowed off the eluvian. She staggered back, coughing and blinking. "Maybe we should clean it, either way."
Artemis coughed and sneezed into his sleeve, eyes watering. "Clean it. Yes. That is something we should do." With the amount of dust Merrill had just kicked up, maybe they should have just thrown a tempest at it and then let it dry in the sun. Rags and water. He needed rags and water…
"You mean you were looking for Tamlen, weren’t you?" Artie asked as Merrill helped him gather the requisite cleaning supplies. "I remember him, though I can’t say we talked much. I don’t think he was particularly fond of my… humanness."
"He was always like that," Merrill said with a rueful smile. "A bit on the surly side from time to time, but… I miss him. Perhaps not quite so much as Theron does, but I think a part of him still blames himself for what happened."
The cleaning took longer than the moving had, with the two of them scrubbing the frame to a shine it may never before have had, every crevice free of dirt, dust, and shavings from the crafting of the frame. Merrill sang to herself, quietly, as she moved on to the glass, angling it into a beam of sunlight, to better see the surface, which was still, as she’d said before, muddy on the inside. It was nothing to do with the glass — it was something to do with the magic. And then the fog cleared, suddenly, flashing an image of a red-tinged city with spires reaching toward a black sky.
"Artemis!" she hissed, dropping the rag. "It’s working!"
Images flickered against the glass — a forest with broken pillars, a room with only half a wall, a dragon’s skull, a room made of crystal scattered with busted chunks from higher up the walls. But, it wouldn’t focus. It wouldn’t stop flashing and flickering. Eventually, it went muddy, again, with only the faintest shimmer of blue still hanging in the glass.
Artemis stared at it with round eyes, rag still clutched in his hand. "What just happened?" he asked, voice hushed. "How did we get it to do that?"
"I’m not sure," Merrill said, her hand hovering over the blue shimmer of glass. "Maybe I should have let you clean it months ago." With a steadying breath, Merrill murmured a few words, words Artemis recognised as the passcode she and Theron had worked out together. The surface of the mirror rippled again, still that glowing, shimmery blue, before returning to its muddy stillness. Merrill hummed and chewed her lip.
Artie shrugged. "Maybe it needs to be cleaner?"
But, no matter how much more washing they did — and by the time they stopped, the mirror did reflect, at some angles — the images of far off places never returned. Merrill stared at the eluvian in frustration, her hair disarranged with dried soap holding it off her face, from all the times she’d pushed it back with wet hands.
"It works," she insisted. "You saw it! But… it doesn’t work all the time. What changed? What was different? We kept washing it!" She sighed and slumped, settling onto a box of books. "But, you saw it. I’m not crazy."
She threw the rag she’d been using back into the bucket of water. "We should probably eat something, and then bring back that poor man’s cart, before it gets any later," she sighed.