[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 4
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cullen ♂, Keran ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Merrill ♀, Artemis Hawke ♂, Natia Brosca ♀
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: A handful of judgements and dirty words
Notes: Cullen makes some decisions about the future of the Order, in Kirkwall. Merrill, Natia, and Artemis continue to discuss renovations to the alienage.
This office was bigger, better lit, something Cullen had noticed every time Meredith had summoned him into it. What he hadn’t noticed before was how much smaller it seemed without her presence. It was his now, Knight-Commander Cullen’s, and Cullen settled into the chair behind Meredith’s — his — desk, leaning back until the wood creaked. But no matter how he sat or stood or leaned, Cullen couldn’t shake the feeling he was trespassing.
Cullen jumped, his chair almost toppling backwards. "Yes, Keran?" he said, righting himself and his dignity. Past Keran, Carver loitered in the hallway.
"I have the paperwork you asked for, ser," Keran said, thumbing through the papers in his hand before handing Cullen a few sheets. "And Carver’s here to help us move your things from your old office."
"Because I love being used for manual labour," Carver said with false cheer.
"I… well, I’m not sure there’s much to move, really," Cullen said. "The furniture is staying. It’s mostly books." One or two of which were Orlesian and embarrassing, now that he thought of it. "I’m sure I can manage."
"Well, we’re here. We’ll get it. You’ve still got to sort out all the records and figure out what to do with everyone," Keran said, filing the rest of the papers he was holding.
"Everyone," Cullen scoffed. "Less than half of Kirkwall’s templars are alive and not locked up, downstairs. You’ve been making sure they get their lyrium? They’re eating more than bread and water?"
"And the torches are lit, most of the time. There’s some of them thinking of coming back around, I’ve heard. This isn’t how Meredith treated her prisoners, and if you’re willing to be so kind, after they’ve been such shits, maybe there’s something to you, after all," Keran explained, looking around the office. "Looks like the Tranquil did a real job in here. You can hardly tell there was a fire."
"They do good work, and it’s time we appreciated it." Cullen shoved files around on the desk, looking at the names of templars, and trying to figure out what had become of all of them. "Bring me the names of anyone who wants to change sides. I’ll look at their records and see what we can do. I’m not taking all of them, most likely — I don’t know that all of them can be trusted, and right now, most of all, I need visible representatives of the Order who can conduct themselves with some measure of respectability."
"Which is definitely why you’ve got Carver working for you," Keran teased.
"And why he’s usually in charge of latrines," Cullen drawled.
"Hey, I cleaned those latrines in a perfectly respectable way," Carver retorted. He looked around the office, trying to gauge where there was room for what. "What’s in that cabinet?" He pointed with his chin.
"Cabinet?" Cullen turned to see what he was looking at and promptly flushed. He and Anton were acquainted with that cabinet. "Uh, nothing exciting," he said. "It’s… roomier than it looks, though."
"Back to what you were saying about respectability and representing the Order," Keran said, and Cullen was relieved by the change in subject, "who’re you going to promote to Knight-Captain?"
Carver stopped poking around long enough to look at the two of them.
Cullen leaned back in his chair again as he considered. "I, uh. I hadn’t thought about it." Which he should have, he knew, but he’d already had too much on his plate.
"Not your friend Samson," Carver said, quickly, shaking his head. "It’s not that I don’t like the guy, just fine, socially, but all that time on the street, trying to get lyrium out of the Carta, it did something to his head. I’m sure he’ll be fine working with us, but you can’t make him captain."
"He’s got a point," Keran agreed. "The guy’s not all there. I’d support him for a promotion, but not that high."
"How about I give him Knight-Corporal?" Cullen asked, looking for Samson’s file. "Just enough to say we trust him, not enough for him to do much real damage, if the lyrium gets to him?"
Carver nodded. "That’s where you’ve got me, and I think he’d be able to handle it. You want me to keep an eye on him?"
"Sure. Thanks, Carver." Cullen nodded and made a note on the file, moving it into a pile he’d designated for promotions. "I don’t know if I said it, Keran, but I’ve got your name on my list for Knight-Lieutenant, once we finish digging through all these names. I’d bring you up to Captain, but two inexperienced captains in a row? They’d eat us alive. We need someone who’s been around longer and isn’t lyrium addled or locked in the dungeon."
"It’s sad when that narrows our options so much, isn’t it?" Keran said with a weak smile. "I appreciate you even considering me, Commander. And I’m happy to have any promotion, really." Behind him, Carver rolled his eyes.
"So who does that leave?" Carver asked. "Does it leave anyone?"
Cullen folded his hands on his desk. "How about Thrask?"
Keran brightened, but Carver’s eyebrow twitched up at the name. "The fool who had a part in kidnapping my brother? I mean, it was just Cormac, but still."
"From what I understand, he was always against that part," Keran said.
"Well, that’s nice of him," Carver sneered.
Cullen held up a hand for quiet. "Thrask is a good man. That particular decision may have been questionable, but it was a desperate act. And we all remember just how desperate Meredith made us at the end."
"Did Denis make it?" Keran asked, after a moment. "Because sure, cycling our discards back to Val Royeaux would get them out of our hair, but I don’t think I want to unleash that on any other unsuspecting Circle."
"Ser Penis was the first on the pyre," Carver replied. "I dragged him out, myself. Heard about Ella. Sorry about that, you know."
"Not as sorry as she is, but I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear he won’t be bothering her or anyone else, again." Keran shook his head and stared at the edge of the Commander’s desk. "How did it get so bad? How did it get so bad that we needed fake Tranquil, to protect the mages from, well, us?"
"Because the Templar Order isn’t designed to encourage dissent — everyone’s too afraid of what happened to Samson, what happened to me. And that really shouldn’t happen to anyone. Write that down. We’re not doing that to people." Cullen looked distressed at the idea. "Really, write it down. I’ll sign it. We’ll hang it in the hall. It’s not right to separate a templar from his lyrium — even a retired templar."
Keran took notes. "We’re going to end up making a lot of changes, I think."
"We need to look back to the foundations of the Order, and what the Chantry hired us to do. Because a lot of what’s expected of us now isn’t why we’re here. I’ll sort it out. One thing at a time." Cullen groaned and leaned back, nearly toppling the chair. That was it. He was bringing his own chair in from across the hall.
"Ella still got the scar?" Carver asked. He hadn’t seen her much, since the battle. They’d each been busy with different aspects of bringing the life back to the Gallows.
"None of the healers can get rid of it. New damage, they can do. Scars, though, it’s too late." Keran shook his head again. "I don’t really understand, but I guess it makes sense. It’s already healed. You can’t heal it again."
"Well, come tell her to take a look at my face," Cullen joked. "She can worry about my scar and I’ll worry about hers, and you can keep flashing your unblemished face around like the hero people need to see."
The three of them sat around Merrill’s new table — the old one didn’t survive a piece of the ceiling falling on it, which wasn’t surprising, really, and Carver had demanded a few sovereigns from Anton to buy a new one and replace all the windows in the alienage, since it was ‘all Cormac’s fault anyway, and it’s his money’. The new table would be much less wobbly, once the floor was solid again, but for now, it had a slice of a wine cork crammed under one leg, to brace it against one of the dips.
"Oh! Theron drew these for us." Merrill smiled, adding a few sheets to the pile of paper on the table. "They’re the statues of the gods that our clan travels with. And Fen’Harel, who we don’t travel with, but he sits outside all the camps. We don’t really have much room, so it’s probably best to put them on buildings. Oh! Buildings. Do we have space for everyone?"
"So, the other nice thing about dwarves is that we have stairs," Natia joked. "I’m looking at some ideas with multiple homes stacked up, so you use less space on the ground, but everyone gets more space inside." She glanced around Merrill’s tiny home. "A lot more space. Not the size of his house," she said, pointing at Artemis, "but four times the size of this place, easy."
"But, what about the people who can’t climb stairs?" Merrill asked.
"We could give them the ground-level ones. Or I could make those into ramps instead of stairs, and you could push people up them." Natia considered it, staring into the corner of the ceiling as she rubbed her chin. "I have to think about this, but I’m sure we can make it work."
Over Natia’s shoulder, Artemis tilted his head, trying to get a look at Theron’s drawings. He snorted a laugh in Natia’s ear. "His art hasn’t improved much, since we were kids," he said, and Natia let him slide the paper his way. "He used to doodle with sticks in the dirt. But I recognise these shapes. The gods… this one is Andruil, right?" Merrill nodded. "He always did like drawing her." Around the doodles of elven gods, Theron had sketched in trees with intertwining branches. For all its lack of detail, the shapes were fluid, curving, light. "Now, what about a garden? We have the Vhenadahl, of course, but…" He shrugged at Merrill, who smiled back.
"In what space?" Natia asked, rubbing her forehead. "The Alienage isn’t exactly a big place to begin with, and I’m trying to use every inch efficiently."
Artemis nodded as he considered. He tried to picture it, houses on top of houses, the zigzag of stairs. "What about the roofs?" he said. "There should be room up there for some decent-sized gardens. We could give each household plot, and they could grow trees, flowers, vegetables. Whatever they like."
Merrill rocked up onto her toes in delight. "Ooh, there’s an idea! I like that idea."
Natia looked between the two of them. "That’s a thing? That’s possible? I will never understand the limits of the surface."
Artie nodded. "It’s a thing. And we could use plants decoratively elsewhere. Let me — Merrill, I don’t suppose you have a quill and ink I could use? And possibly some fresh paper. If not, Theron left some room in the margins here."
Merrill leapt up, tripping over her chair, as she darted across the room for paper. "I have some here. I always have some. You never know when you’re going to need to send a note!" The return involved much less tripping over things, and Natia looked relieved when Merrill sat down again, handing several sheets of paper to Artie.
"So, a garden on the roof?" Natia asked again, watching Artie sketch something out, all quick, straight lines. "Nothing too big, or you’ve got to worry about the roots getting into the cracks and busting up the roof. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Kirkwall it’s that the trees are dangerous to the roads."
"It’s because no one in Kirkwall trusts magic," Merrill said, shaking her head, sadly. "There are definitely enchantments for that. If you show the tree an easier way, it’ll take it. Most things like to go the easy way. Of course, you have to give it an easy way to go, too. Maybe they dug too shallow or too narrow. Trees need a lot more space than it looks like they do. But, the vhenadahl doesn’t push up the streets."
"I’m still amazed that there’s magic for that," Artie said, not taking his eyes off the paper as his hand moved. "But then, I’ve seen you strangle bandits with roots."
Natia tried but failed to keep the alarm off her face. She’d never feel safe around plant-life again.
"Well, that’s a more extreme example," Merrill said, scuffing her feet against the floor. "And I always put the roots back," she rushed to assure Natia.
"Oh, good," Natia muttered.
"But, still, that’s something we could do." Artie chewed on his lip as he looked over his sketch, head tilted. "And we could have some fun with it, depending on how much shaping you are willing to do. We could have hanging gardens! Could we have hanging gardens? It would make Kirkwall less dreary and provide some lovely shade in the summer." Artemis added some more scraggly lines to represent plant-life.
"Wouldn’t that depend on always having a mage available?" Natia asked, studying the lines. "I mean, plants grow. If you need magic to make them do that, do you need magic to keep them doing that?"
Merrill shook her head. "Once you make the shape, you can make it stay like that with regular gardening tools. There are some things our crafters made out of living wood… but that wasn’t here. Sundermount is more open and less forgiving. We had some nice arches in Orlais, though. Ilen’s work is amazing."
"You made arches out of trees, and they stayed that way?" Natia was still trying to imagine that. "Is that like those weirdo nobles with the trees that look like dogs and stuff?"
"Oh! Yes!" Merrill smiled brightly. "There are some of those in the viscount’s gardens. And didn’t your brother used to have some, Artie? It’s a lot like that. You don’t need a mage, you just need a really good gardener!"
Artemis’s ears flushed at the mention of his brother’s garden, but he did remember that, trees forming arches over the walkways, bushes ensuring privacy. "Indeed. Those were very… lovely gardens. Lovely trees."
Natia sat back, brows knit as she glanced over Artemis’s drawing. The structure was more or less what she’d had in mind, but the placement of the stairs and the plants were elegant. Not the sort of thing she was used to building or repairing, but Merrill was all but vibrating with excitement. "We could work with that," she said. "Stone structures, dwarven made." She paused to pluck the quill from Artie’s hand, sliding the paper over to make a few adjustments. "Sturdy, but roomy. You elf and mage types can take care of the decorative end of things. We’ll go over measurements and placement later. First, hand me another paper, Merrill, and let me show what I was thinking for inside…"