[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 3
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Merrill ♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Theron Mahariel ♂, Kallian Tabris ♀, Natia Brosca ♀
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: ‘Dainty princess Hawke’ and other less-savoury names
Notes: Concerns about the alienage, now that there are less obstacles to bettering conditions in Kirkwall.
The Alienage was a reasonable distance from the Chantry, or at least from the crater the Chantry had become, so the damage was not as bad as it could have been. Merrill found that a comforting thought as she stared up at the debris caught in the Vhenadahl’s branches and then down at the caved-in homes, the collapsed bit of stone that used to be her entryway.
"Amazing," Theron mumbled, looking around. "I did not think this place could look any more depressing, and now…"
Merrill swatted one of his arms while Artie swatted the other.
"Ow! What? You can’t tell me this isn’t depressing!"
This time, the smack came from his wife, though it was less of a smack and more of a kick to the ass. "Your manners are what’s depressing," she said, unfazed by the wounded look on Theron’s face.
"I think there has been enough destruction here without anyone demolishing my ass!" Theron protested. His hurt look shifted into a coy smile. "At least in that way."
Fenris heaved a long-suffering sigh and exchanged a commiserating look with Carver.
"And now that we’re completely done discussing Theron’s ass, how’s this looking, Master Brosca?" Carver asked the dwarf who was poking around the bases of some buildings. ‘Master Brosca’ because Natia was here professionally, and as the only dwarf, it seemed important to maintain her credentials.
"It’s horrible," Natia replied, still getting used to the idea that on the surface, a casteless dwarf could become a ‘Master’ of anything. "Typical human construction, mostly, and really cheaply done. It’s a surprise it even made it this long, even without the shaking from the Chantry. You want my advice? Pull it all down and start over. You need some good dwarven walls in here. Dwarves don’t fuck around when it comes to walls. Dwarven construction will last millennia, and it can support all those little things surfacers like, like windows."
"Are the windows going to break less?" Carver asked, looking around. "I clean up a lot of broken windows, down here."
"Depends on why they’re broken. At the very least, they’ll break differently, because they’ll be properly fitted in stone, with lead fixtures, not this wood sh—" Natia cleared her throat. "Wood changes size and shape, as it ages. You’ll never get as good a seal, with wood, even with wax."
"What if it were living wood?" Merrill asked, absently.
Natia blinked, her expression unchanging. "Living wood?" she asked. "Is that a magic thing, an elf thing, or a we’re-going-to-need-to-hunt-down-some-sylvans thing? Either way, not… really my area of expertise."
"What?" Merrill said. "Oh! Oh no, the poor sylvans. No, no. I meant, what if we rebuilt the Alienage out of trees? Or parts of it, anyway. I’m just rambling, again. Saying my thoughts aloud."
Natia looked no less confused. "I thought wood… came from… trees?"
"It does," Theron assured her. "But, I think what Merrill is considering is shaping the trees, using magic?" He looked at Merrill, who nodded. "Yes. Without chopping them down or chopping them up. Living trees. Living wood."
Natia rocked back on her heels and tried to picture it. "Huh," she said, head tilting to the side as she considered the Vhendahl, the way the branches arched out like jagged threads of a spider’s web. "I’m not sure that would solve the window-breaking problem. Wood is wood, right? And wouldn’t the trees still grow?"
"They would, wouldn’t they." Merrill hummed disconsolately, studying the buildings around them. "What do you suggest?"
"Stone, obviously. Kirkwall’s got some very good stone. They used to export it to Minrathous, even." Natia looked around. "And levelling the ground, first of all. Half your problems are that. But, make sure you get some stone cut, first. I can get you a good deal from a nice dwarven quarry. They know how to cut right. But, you’re all going to be a little… You’ll have to find somewhere else to go for a few months, while we actually get this going." Natia shrugged. "Sorry about that, but this is bigger than just some repairs. On the bright side, you’ll come back to warm, dry homes as good as or better than the construction in Hightown. Smaller, though. Not much I can do about that really."
"Doesn’t Varric have that nice place in Hightown?" Merrill suggested. "The one with all the elves and cakes?"
"Or some of you can come stay with us, for a while," Theron offered, eyeing the thin, tired elves around him. "You’ll have to learn to do some hunting and gathering, but it shouldn’t be too bad."
"I’ll pay to send up some food with them," Carver said, finally. "Not enough, probably — I can’t afford that, but something to get them started."
"We’ll make sure everyone is taken care of, one way or another," Artie said, nodding, even if he knew that was probably more optimistic than he ought to be. The logistics would be a headache, but if they were going to be rebuilding parts of Kirkwall, they would do it properly. "I’ll have a talk with Varric. Most of these elves have jobs in the city, which would make living on Sundermount difficult."
"I’m going to end up babysitting their children, aren’t I?" Kalli sighed. "Theron’s brought me enough kids!"
"Now, vhenan, don’t be selfish," Theron protested. "Those kids were for the whole clan! You just happen to hog them."
Merrill scratched one foot with the other, still looking unsure. "More stone?" she sighed. "I don’t… Well. I don’t mean to be rude, Master Brosca, but doesn’t Kirkwall have enough dwarfy architecture? Well. Most of it fake-dwarfy, I know. And not that I don’t like it, because I do, but. We’re elves. And it’s a struggle to remember that sometimes, when I look around this place."
Natia struggled to find an answer, one hand cupping her chin. "I still recommend stone," she said, shaking her head. "But that doesn’t mean it has to look like the rest of Kirkwall."
Merrill and several other elves studied Natia inquisitively, waiting for her to go on.
"Keep talking," Theron encouraged.
"That up there is Tevinter styled," Natia said, gesturing at the stairs. "It doesn’t have to look like that. If you show me what elf-styled should look like, I can take some sketches to the right people and make sure we end up with the right shapes. We had some pretty cool stuff in Orzammar, even if I wasn’t in a position to appreciate much of it. And I bought a book from Kal-Sharok, where they’ve got statues of Paragons on the front of some of their buildings, with the doors between their legs. That’s a little much, but there’s all kinds of things we can do to make it look like elves live here. Trees, too. Just need to plan for them and space them out right, so they don’t grow and rip everything up. We could fit a couple more trees."
"Halla," Carver suggested. "Every human I know associates halla with elves. I don’t know if that’s really right, but it definitely says ‘elf’ in the city."
"I could draw the signs of the gods," Theron offered. "Maybe they’d look good over doors or something? Oh, and you definitely need a Fen’Harel statue, up on those steps. It faces out. For protection."
"How about a gate?" one of the elves asked. "If we’re talking about protection, a gate sounds like it would help."
"No." Kalli’s expression went steely in a second, and she glared out at the crowd. "We had gates in Denerim, you know. Separating that Alienage. They were used for protection, sure. To protect the shems from us."
Artemis eyed her warily. "From you? You mean they locked the elves in?"
Kalli’s smile was anything but friendly. "Except for the elves the ‘Vints tried to sell into slavery, yeah."
That sent the crowd muttering and exchanging worried looks.
"That won’t happen," Carver promised, and Artie nodded in agreement.
"If anything," Artie said, "I don’t like how there’s only one exit and entrance into the Alienage." He tipped his head at the steps. "Well. One exit or entrance that… doesn’t lead into sewage. This very easily could have been a slaughter when the Qunari invaded. As much as I like to think that Kirkwall has worked all its trouble out of its system, it is better to be prepared, and if we’re tearing everything down to start over anyway…" Artemis shrugged.
Natia hummed, frowning. "That might be a bit more ambitious," she said, "but it’s something to consider."
"Latch the sewer grates from the outside," Kalli suggested. "If you can go down them, other things can come up through them. Nothing that uses a key, but definitely something that can’t be opened from underneath. And dainty princess Hawke over here is right — you definitely need some way not to slog through sewage down there."
"Blocks," Carver said, suddenly. "If you put tall blocks of stone along the wall of the sewer, you can stand higher than the shit. It’s still going to smell gross, but it doesn’t involve the time of cutting a whole new tunnel."
"Doesn’t your brother have maps of the old Tevinter underground city?" Merrill asked, looking up at Carver. "I wonder if we can’t get into that. No one would be looking there."
"Wait, what?" Theron looked confused. "There’s a city underground? You know, they said Arlathan sank into the ground, but this is the first time I’ve heard of a Tevinter sunken city."
"You must not read the Gazette, except for a certain page." Fenris smirked at Theron. "There’s been articles about it for years. Someone wrote a whole series on discovering the historical treasures of Tevinter, under Darktown."
"But, is any of that true?" Theron asked, looking confused, if mildly excited.
"Of course it’s true, Theron." Merrill shook her head and smiled. "I went there to kill a demon with the Knight-Captain — er, Commander, now — and the Hawkes. Oh! And the time Anders and I went to get that book. You were there, Artie! But, if we cleared out most of the unfriendly spirits, that could be a very good place. It’s built very well, and it isn’t full of sewage."
"Yeah, but notice the use of the phrase ‘most of’," Natia said, eyeing them askance. "‘Don’t worry, guys, most of the angry demons are gone!’ ‘The place is mostly safe!’ Not reassuring."
Carver shrugged, exchanged a look with Merrill and conferred silently with her in the twitch of one eyebrow. "Well, that’s what we’re here for," he said. "Sort of. It’s something we can take care of, at the very least. Turn mostly safe into completely safe."
"Who’s ‘we’ in this equation?" Kalli asked. "Templars? Hawkes? You and your elf posse?"
"Well, you can’t expect me to bring dainty princess Hawke along," Carver said, to Artie’s great offence, "so not Hawkes."
"Excuse me," Artemis protested. "You are not calling me that. She is not calling me that." He pointed accusingly at Kalli. "No one is calling me that!"
Kalli turned to Theron. "He’s a cranky princess Hawke."
Artemis growled, and Fenris wrapped an arm around his waist, trying desperately not to laugh. "Please don’t force push her into the water, Amatus."
"Templars," Carver said, firmly. "It’s the duty of the templars to fight demons, and Ser Cullen and I are pretty good at it."
"Bravest of the brave, brave Ser Shemlen!" Theron sang, loudly and melodramatically, and Carver glared murderously. "No, but he really is good at it. Kalli and I were with him for a nasty one, on the mountain. Merrill brought us along when she went to go, ah, clean up a Tevinter mess, up there."
"A demon threatened our clan," Merrill said, quietly. "Five people died. I knew them. I liked them. If I’d only understood what was happening more quickly…" She shook her head.
An older elf stepped out of the crowd. "But, you did understand, and you saved the rest of them, didn’t you?" she asked, patiently.
"Yes, Hahren Reeba. I know what to look for, now, but—"
"But, nothing. You’re young, Merrill. Would any of us know what to look for? Did anyone else in the clan see it? No. You saw it. You understood it." Reeba reached out and patted Merrill’s arm. "And now, you’ll be our Keeper. Imagine that! An alienage with a Keeper. I wish we still had any of our mages, but poor Huon was taken by the templars first and the demons after, and young Feynriel has gone off to Tevinter to study. Of course, this all depends on the Knight-Commander keeping his promises."
"Cullen doesn’t make promises he doesn’t mean to keep," Carver said, lifting his chin. "We may have a little trouble in the beginning, and I’m sorry for that, but it takes a while to break old habits."
"At least there’s no Meredith to contend with any more," Artemis muttered. "That alone should improve things." And that was something he hadn’t even thought about, with the new changes: the Alienage able to have its own Keeper. A part of him was still waiting for the Divine to react, to launch an Exalted March on Kirkwall after all. That would be their luck.
"All right." Natia cracked her knuckles and rolled her shoulders. "We have some planning to do. Come on, you skinny louts. Let’s get inside with some parchment and see what we can sketch out. You said something about wolves, elf-boy? We’ll get you some wolves. You want trees? We’ll add trees." As she spoke, Merrill led her to the ruins of her home. The foyer was a mess, but, Merrill insisted, the kitchen should be relatively clean. At the least, it had a table and some supplies.
Artemis exchanged a look with his brother. "Were we included in the ‘skinny louts’?" he asked.