[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 7
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Merrill ♀, Hahren Reeba♀, Natia Brosca ♀, Anton Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, First Enchanter Tim ♂
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D1)
Warnings: A few colourful words, a theoretical bottle of celebratory booze
Notes: Merrill and Anton change what it means to be an elf in Kirkwall. Anton and Cullen introduce the new First Enchanter.
Merrill squeezed between stacks of stone blocks that hadn’t been moved yet, and ducked between statue parts and scaffolding to get down the stairs to the Alienage. She looked much like she had, when she left, the day before, but now she wore a golden circlet with four pearls — they were said to be pearls, but Merrill didn’t think real pearls were that big — at the front, and a string of pearls — actual pearls — wrapped around it. She also wore a new cloak, a tasteful tan leather on the outside, with what Anton said was the traditional green velvet on the inside.
"Hey, lady, you can’t just—" Natia started, looking up from where she and Reeba were playing dice games under the Vhenadahl. "Oh, shit, Merrill? Is that you?"
Merrill waved and ducked her head, as she made her way over to the two of them. The construction of one of the new buildings continued in the background, with blocks being lifted with ropes and force magic to the second level.
"What kind of crazy shem thing are you wearing?" Reeba laughed, getting up to walk around Merrill and get a closer look. "You look like the viscount’s mistress!"
"I’m a baroness, now, Hahren." Merrill smiled, shyly. "Baroness Merrill of the Kirkwall Alienage."
"Well, well," Natia said, grinning up at her. "Look at you, with your fancy new title."
Reeba’s eyes were wide, astonished. "Baroness?" she said. "An elf? I’d heard the new viscount had promised as much, but I was certain that had been the drink talking!"
Merrill ducked her head bashfully, hiding her smile, and rubbed the velvet cloak between her fingers. "No, no," she said. "Anton always keeps his word. Well. The important words, anyway. And he knew this was important."
Reeba touched the edge of Merrill’s cloak, feeling the fine fabric and craftsmanship. "Are you leaving us, then, lethallan?" she asked. "Off to Hightown, with the rest of the nobles?"
Merrill had been staying there the past few days, or so Reeba had heard. Perhaps she’d already made the arrangements.
"Oh, Hahren, no," Merrill said, shaking her head, "that’s not what this means. All of it. Any of it." She took the coronet off her head, moving it gingerly between her hands as though afraid to drop it. Which she was. "What it means is that we have a voice now, in the government. Only my voice, but it’s better than nothing and… and it’s a start. Why would I leave the people I’m supposed to be speaking for? That wouldn’t really make any sense, would it?"
"Isn’t that what nobles do?" Reeba asked. "They move up into Hightown and away from the people they came from. They get servants and ignore them. They waste food in front of the hungry."
"Not the Hawkes," Merrill said strongly. "Not the Hawkes, and not me. You’ve spoken to Bodhan and Orana, haven’t you? You know how the Hawkes care for their people, and I will not be so different, but instead of looking after my servants, I’m going to look after my friends. Anton says I can ask for official help — workers and money — for the alienage, so we can get things done."
"We’re getting things done now!" Reeba gestured to the foundations on one side of the alienage.
"People are volunteering to help us," Merrill pointed out. "But, if we get money from the city, we can pay them. We can help even more people, if we have money."
"She’s got a point," Natia said, after a moment. "There’s a lot folks will do for free, but we need money for supplies, if nothing else. And if the treasury wants to pay for the work, there’s no reason to stop them."
"And that’s important for our future, if we want to maintain what we build," Merrill added. She took Reeba’s hand in hers and squeezed it. "And we’re going to build something great here. Not just the buildings. Though they are looking pretty wonderful, Natia, from what I can see."
"The trees were a challenge," Natia admitted. "But I told you. You can’t beat dwarf architecture!"
Reeba’s smile was soft but bittersweet, the smile of the wary, who had reason to be wary. "You are right, of course," she said. "Have you celebrated? I would say this calls for a drink and a toast! I know Natia is hiding some brandy she doesn’t want me to know about…"
"I— what? Am not!" But Natia looked more worried than affronted.
"Oh! … Well, if there’s no brandy," Merrill appeared to have missed the fact that there was something more going on with Natia, "I have some anisette! It’s from Antiva. Isabela gave me a bottle, and it’s very good." She smiled brightly and Natia and Reeba studied each other.
"Anisette?" Reeba asked, with a polite, if stiff, smile.
"You know, maybe there’s some brandy around here, after all," Natia said, looking a bit pained. "Somebody has to have some."
The crowd gathered in the Keep’s plaza was getting larger with every passing moment. The viscount had some decree to bestow upon them, and everyone was interested to hear what the man would do now. So far, he’d pissed off half of Hightown with his support of the Alienage reconstruction project, and while a lot of Lowtown saw that as something of a betrayal, those who lived closest to the stairs talked about how bad it had really gotten in there. So, this would be something worth hearing.
Anton stepped out, standing above the crowd below, and held out his hands for silence. "You all know that I handle the politics of Kirkwall — our interactions with other cities and nations. But, it falls to others to handle some more specific native concerns, like our mages."
The crowd shifted uncomfortably, and murmurs started. What was he doing? Would he revoke the law of free mages?
"You already know one of those people, my extremely handsome husband, Knight-Commander Cullen. But, today, we bring you the other one. They call him… Tim. Please welcome First Enchanter Tim of the Kirkwall Circle!" Anton gestured to one side, and Cullen stepped out to join him, leading an older man with a long beard and a horned hat. "I’m told that this decision required many weeks of deliberation, as our former First Enchanter did not leave instruction on who was meant to take his place. But, the mages have made their decision, and First Enchanter Tim will represent their interests."
"Their interests are not so different to your own," Cullen pointed out. "From what I understand, most mages want homes, families, and jobs in the community, and my partner, Tim, is here to ensure that goes smoothly and that these mages get a good, solid magical education, as well, so they can protect themselves and others from demonic influence."
Applause followed, but it was hesitant, wary. The people of Kirkwall didn’t know this Tim or what to expect from him. Tim, on the other hand, bowed deeply, either unconcerned or unaware of the suspicion. "I thank you for this honour, Knight-Commander, Viscount, people of Kirkwall," he said solemnly. He leaned on his staff as though it were as much a walking aid as a conduit for his magic. "I can’t remember the last time I was in this part of Kirkwall, and it is good to see the faces of my neighbours. Because that is what we are now, isn’t it? Neighbours." His smile was missing a tooth, but it was no less broad because of it. "And it is my job to make sure that we are good neighbours. Good neighbours who give back to their community."
His knobby hands twisted around his staff’s grip. Around him, the crowd was still quiet — still withholding judgement, Anton suspected.
Somewhere in the crowd, someone started coughing, and the crowd shifted, moving away from them. Tim seized the opportunity. "The magical community can offer some assistance with that," he said, pointing toward the gap in the crowd. "Though our healers are few, at present, I do want to make it possible for all of Kirkwall to get to a healer easily. We haven’t much, now, in that regard, but I understand that one of the healers who recently left us left behind a large library and a well-stocked clinic, and I hope to get that going again, soon. No more hiding in the shadows just to get well!"
That got the attention of the crowd, and this time, the applause was much louder. That was something the people could get behind.
"I see that some of you have come to more permanent harm, as well, and sadly, that is something I have not known magic to solve — a hand is too much for man to craft, even with the Maker’s gift. But, there is magic that may help you do the things you need and want to do, and if you’ll come to the clinic and let us know what you’re having trouble with, we’ll see what we can do for you. I understand we’ve had excellent luck with foot massage runes, in the tower, which may not sound like much, unless you’re standing all day. I see some guards down there nodding." Tim smiled again, reaching out to pat Cullen’s shoulder, amiably. "I want to offer the comfort magic can bring to all my neighbours, here in Kirkwall. And I want to offer a magical education to any of you who have been hiding your talents, because you’ve been too afraid to let anyone know. Come to my office. Step forward and share the Maker’s gift to you with your friends and family. It is not something anyone should bear alone, and it is not something to be feared and locked away. Magic must not rule over man — that is what the Chant tells us — but it also tells us that magic is meant to serve man, and it does no great service, if we do not use it to help our neighbours."
"That rune," called out a man towards the back of the crowd, "can it massage something other than my feet?" He nudged the man next to him, and that part of the crowd erupted into raucous laughter. Cullen glared at them as though he could silence them with a look alone.
"With the right adjustments, of course!" Tim said, either ignoring or oblivious to what the man actually meant. "Have a bad back? There’s a rune for that! Also a heating rune and cold rune to ease any sore muscles or general aches and pains you have but don’t need or want to see a healer for. How about a rune for your pots and pans? Imagine it! Hot stew, without making a fire or lighting a stove! An ice cold drink, in the summer heat!"
"He sounds like a vendor in the market," one woman called into the crowd, to scattered laughter. "Like that potion lady, whatsername. ‘Bad back? There’s a potion for that! Want your hair to grow? There’s a potion for that! Want to poison your no-good, cheating husband? There’s a potion for that!'"
"Except magic can do all those things!" Tim cheerfully replied.
"Uh, not to imply that any mages will be doing that last one," Cullen hastened to add. "And… serah, you are speaking rhetorically, I hope?" He was not reassured by the woman’s smirk.
"She’s been threatening to poison her husband for years," Donnic called from the side of the crowd. "Where are you, Martin?"
"I’m not dead yet!" a man called from elsewhere in the crowd. "I feel fine!"
Around him, his friends laughed, elbowing him and each other. "Don’t worry about old Marty! We’ve got him!"
"All of you, one of these days," the woman shouted, shaking her fist over her shoulder.
"But, it’s all true," Tim said, enthusiastically. "There’s not much magic can do that’s new, but anything you can do with your hands, you can do faster or easier with magic. It’s not something to replace hard work, but it can make that work a lot less hard, so you’ve got time to do other things. And this nice young man, here," he said, patting Cullen’s arm again, "has decided that it’s time for us to stop keeping the benefits to ourselves. So, let’s have a talk, Kirkwall! What would help you? Fresh water? Non-slip shoes? Self-warming kettles?" He hiked up his robes a bit and sat on the edge of steps, carefully lowering himself to the ground. "Come tell us what you need! You’ve got a mage, a templar, and the Viscount of Kirkwall, here. Surely one of us can help!"
Anton looked a little less than enthused by this sudden turn of events, and he shot a panicked glance at Cullen, who just shrugged. "Donnic! Can you keep this orderly?"
"Shit, shit, shit!" Donnic pulled himself up onto the foot of a column, and started gesturing to the other guards. "If you’d like to talk to the First Enchanter, form a line! If you’d just like to listen to the conversation, please step to the sides!"