[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 17
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Varric ♂, Theron Mahariel ♂, Kallian Tabris ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Politics and frilly smalls
Notes: Varric tries to write about elves. Learning about elven culture from Theron and Kalli might not be the best choice, though.
The Hanged Man was busy, that night. It had been busy most nights, lately, full of people debating whether Baroness Merrill was going to come through with the repairs she’d been promising them. She was only Baroness of the Alienage, but the people of Lowtown noticed when she stood up for them, too. It was her and Lord Dog against the rest of the council, the way they saw it. Not bad, for an elf, really. A lot more elves had started coming to the tavern, too — sometimes just to drink, and sometimes to pick up little jobs, here and there. Varric knew a lot of their names, and anyone Varric would buy a drink for couldn’t be all bad, elves included.
This particular night, though, Varric was watching the door, waiting for someone. "I should’ve given him a ball of string, like Lady Daisy," he joked to Edwina, ordering another bowl of nuts and jerky.
"Your friend get lost easily?" Edwina asked, remembering all the times Merrill had wandered in three or four times in a night, asking for directions to the exact same place.
"He’s Dalish. I don’t know how good he is at cities. Seems to find Hightown easily enough, but down here, the streets are a little less broad and straight." Varric shook his head. "I’m sure he’ll find it. It’s not like you can really miss the place. It’s got dildoes on the roof."
"Dalish? Aren’t you worried about him wandering around down here?" Edwina looked surprised.
"Nah, not this guy. He’ll kick your ass while singing a jaunty song about it. He went up against a demon and came out singing — or that’s the story I’ve heard. I’ve heard the song, too." Varric laughed and washed down some more jerky with his beer.
Varric looked up when the door kicked open, finally spotting what looked like the right elf. Or he assumed it was the right elf, as he was walking backwards into the bar. Varric shook his head in despair.
"Is that your elf?" Edwina asked around a laugh. And then a second elf appeared, dark-haired and scowling, and they both realised Theron was walking backwards to talk to her.
"So, what exotic and intriguing drink should I order, vhenan?" Theron asked Kalli. "Surely there must be something I haven’t tried!"
"What you should try is walking forwards, idiot, before you—" Theron bumped into a table, ass first, and Kalli sighed. "Before you do that."
Theron turned the stumble into a spin and finally turned, spotting Varric in his corner. With a cheery wave, Theron bounded over. "It is good to see you again, my short and fuzzy friend!" he said, slipping into the seat across from Varric.
"Forgive my husband," Kalli drawled, picking the seat next to Theron. "He tends to find cities a bit, er… overstimulating."
"On the contrary! I find them just the right amount of stimulating, especially this one."
"Especially this one? I recall you having a lot of words to that effect about Denerim, too. And Highever," Kalli rolled her eyes and smiled as politely as she could manage at Edwina. "Rum, for me, and whatever you have that’s sweet and light, for him. He likes fruit." She paused, and Varric took the bait.
"He is a fruit."
"I’ve always heard I’m quite delicious," Theron retorted with a wicked smile. "Maybe you should try a taste, before you get judgemental about my fruity excellence."
Edwina sputtered into a loud laugh, catching the attention of half the room. "His drink’s on me. That’s the best line I’ve heard all week."
"So, what did you want me for, Varric, if not my fruity excellence?" Theron asked, nicking a handful of nuts and jerky. "Unless you were interested in that, in which case Kalli gets to watch."
"Never been much of a fan of fruit, sorry," Varric replied with a crooked grin. "Or horseradish either, if Anton asks. I’m more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy, in a purely non-euphemistic sense."
Theron tilted his head, gaze wandering in a way that said he was trying to think up a euphemism anyway.
"Anyway, I heard some rumours about you guys up on Sundermount," Varric went back, sitting back in his chair and resting his ankle on the opposite knee. "Planning to stick around, eh? A bit crazy, if you ask me, what with the demons and the dragons and the other demons. And the other dragons. But we’d be lucky to have you as a neighbour."
"‘Rumours’," Kalli harrumphed. "As if we don’t know who told you."
"A little birdy told me," Varric answered with a wink.
"I wouldn’t call a Hawke little," she drawled.
Varric grinned and turned back to Theron. "Anyway, to answer your question, since we’re going to be neighbours and all, I thought I could try to help. There are going to be grumblings here about you setting up permanently, especially with all the pro-elf politics coming down the pike. You have to know that. Doesn’t mean you should listen, but you can’t ignore it either."
Theron’s smile dimmed a little at that, but he nodded. Edwina returned with their drinks and a fresh round for Varric, and Theron thanked her politely before pausing to sniff what she’s brought him. "I understand that," he said. "No, actually, I don’t understand that. I know I — we — need to watch out for it, but I doubt I will ever understand the reasoning."
"The Dales, you idiot," Kalli filled in. "They’re still pissed about the Dales."
"Excuse me? They’re pissed about the Dales?" Theron looked utterly dumbstruck, which didn’t mean his mouth had stopped moving, for all that it stopped producing coherent sounds.
"While the lot of you have been spouting grand ideas and measuring things, Fenris has been talking to me about Shartan. I guess his sister bought him a book and then he started doing research. The man wrote a whole book. There’s a part of the chant that tells his story, but they docked his ears, in Val Royeaux. Typical shem bullshit, and it was all over the Dales. They won the fight, and then they erased the elves from as much as they could. Never could quite remove the Dales from history, though. But, they say we started it. So, they’re still pissed we almost won."
"That’s completely stupid. Lindiriane must be rolling over in her tomb, right about now." Theron paused. "I’ve been there, you know. Her tomb. Well, what they say is her tomb, anyway. There’s so many tombs in the Emerald Graves, and not just the trees. I’ll take you there, one day. It’s beautiful."
"Not to bury me, I hope, unless it’s ashes." Kalli kicked Theron a bit under the table. "It sounds horrible, you know. I’m sure it’s pretty, but I’m also sure it’s full of demons."
"Not everything old is full of demons!" Theron protested. At Kalli’s flat look, he wavered, shrugged, and added, "Okay, yes, most old things are full of demons. Particularly old things full of corpses. But that’s just in our experience!"
"Mine too," Varric grumbled into his drink.
"But still, that’s…" Theron shook his head, and Varric half expected his ears to droop in tandem with his shoulders. They twitched a bit but weren’t anywhere near as expressive as Fenris’s. Varric wondered if that was just a Broody thing. "That seems a bit silly. And a lot unfair."
"That’s life, Fruity," Varric sighed. He tapped Theron’s cup with his own. "A bit silly and a lot unfair."
Kalli snickered into her rum. "Fruity. That nickname will stick."
Theron shrugged. "I’ve been called worse things. Some of them by you! Most of them by Tamlen. What do you call her?"
Theron nodded. "That seems about right."
Kalli punched his arm. "Hey!"
"Ow! You married me, didn’t you? If that doesn’t make you nuts, what does?"
Kalli punched him again for good measure. He winced but kept on grinning.
"So, tell me about this village you’ve got going," Varric said, leaning back and opening his notebook. "How’s that coming along? How’s it going to affect us, down here?"
"How’s it going to affect you? Well, you’re going to get a lot more Dalish goods in. A lot of this is a trade decision. We’ve been here for almost a decade, and we haven’t had too many problems, except with the templars. And that wasn’t even about us. They just marched through our camp, took what they wanted, and killed the shem camp we’d been trading with, in the caverns. Bunch of assholes, if you ask me. Ser Carver tried to straighten that out for us." Theron shook his head.
"We’re also settling down because we’ve adopted a bunch of children from Tevinter — slave kids. They got sent down with that group that works for you, Varric. But, most of them didn’t come with their parents, for some reason, so they ended up with us. We’re always happy to take on more elves. This, though… There’s an awful lot of them. It’s easier to raise them right if we just stay put," Kalli explained, pouring herself another couple fingers of rum. "I’m from Denerim, you know? So was my friend Pol. Of course he had an unfortunate accident with a varterral, but the clan never really treated us much different to anyone else, except the assumption that we didn’t know what we were doing, which was pretty accurate, for a few years. But, these kids, they’ll grow up in both places. They’ll get city stories and Dalish stories. Maybe if we get lucky, maybe if Kirkwall survives Anton, we’ll finally settle out. I mean, I’m going to be an old lady, one day. I can’t be out here stabbing shems all the time, if I’m old! We’ve got to come to some kind of an arrangement, before then."
Theron chuckled until he spotted the movement of Varric’s hand, a quill moving over parchment. He hadn’t paid much attention to the materials, had assumed Varric had been working to pass the time, but now his writing was deliberate. "Are you… taking notes? Or potentially drawing an unflattering caricature of my wife? If it’s the second option, I’ll pay you for it."
Tipping her drink back, Kalli half-heartedly punched him in the arm again.
"I could do both," Varric offered, quill still moving. "And yes, I’m taking notes." He paused to finish a word before setting down his quill and folding his hands on the table. "Like I said, I want to help. It’s easier for people to hate an idea than one person. Generally speaking, anyway. It’s easier for the Orlesians to bitch if they can think of your clan as a faceless mob. The people of Kirkwall already have one face to put to your clan, and that’s Merrill’s. It helps, but two more faces would help even more."
Theron blinked. "And you… plan to achieve this with an unflattering caricature of my wife?" He didn’t try to dodge the punch in his arm when it came.
"That… wasn’t the original plan, no, but now I’m intrigued." Varric scratched his chin, stubble rasping against his fingers, and looked for all the world as though he were genuinely considering it. "But no, I was thinking a story in the Gazette. An interview with a young Dalish couple with a full family and hearts of gold."
The snort Kalli made into her cup could be heard across the bar.
"Certainly more gold in our hearts than our pockets." Theron laughed, until Kalli slapped the back of his head.
"It’s because you keep spending it on frilly shem underthings!"
"I like them! They make me look dashing!" Theron huffed, eyeing Varric. "I’ll bet you wear nice things, too!"
"As opposed to what I’m wearing now?" Varric lifted an eyebrow. "I might not dress to my station, but I’d like to think I dress nicely."
"He’s asking if you’re wearing frilly smalls." Kalli rolled her eyes. "And for the record, I’m not. They’re flimsy and they get caught on things, like my knives and the rivets in my leathers. It’s just not practical."