[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 18
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Varric ♂, Theron Mahariel ♂, Kallian Tabris ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: A well-deserved ass-kicking
Notes: Theron and Kalli continue to explain elven culture to Varric. And then someone gets punched in the face. Several someones.
Varric seized the opportunity to change the subject. "So, practicality’s a big thing for you? Tell me about that."
"Practicality’s a big thing for any elf," Kalli corrected. "Except this great gasbag I married, and even he’s got more sense than your average shem. In the cities, we’re bait, like the rabbits and nugs they keep to train the mabari. Only those bunnies eat better. Everything we could have, someone else is declared to have more of a right to. In Denerim, the shems told us there was a plague, locked the lot of us in the alienage, and let Tevinter come take their pick of us. Whoever said the South doesn’t do slavery was lying." She reached for a strip of jerky. "So, you learn to look at any shem as a threat, and you only invest in the most necessary things — and you invest often. They’re less likely to steal your turnips than your money. You dress for work — things you can get blood off of, things they’ll have trouble grabbing onto, things that’ll deflect a drunken knife."
"I was at her first wedding," Theron pointed out. "It’s all true. Of course, a wedding’s a big deal, so she had a fancy dress, and damned if the shem didn’t come to take it off her. Don’t think it was the dress they wanted. Hardly matters. They’re all dead and nobody could get the blood out of that thing. Such a waste."
"I liked that dress," Kalli said, mouth full of jerky and her stare far away. "It was ridiculous. Sleeves like fucking curtains, hanging off my arms." She held up one arm and gestured in the air beneath it. "They kept getting tangled. It was a pain in the ass."
"You looked gorgeous though, vhenan," Theron said, eyes sparkling. "Like the gods had plucked a star from the heavens and set it on the earth to dazzle us mere mortals."
"Don’t start," Kalli grumbled, adding a sigh that only sounded agitated.
"And then you pulled out a knife and started stabbing, and I’ve been terrified and in love ever since."
"Sounds like quite the love story," Varric said, adding a few words to his notes. "Like something of an Orlesian romance, except he’s the one doing the swooning."
Kalli shook her head and simply responded, "No. Yes, he swooned. No to Orlesian anything. Theron’s bosoms don’t heave enough for that." She stole another piece of jerky out from under Varric’s fingers. "Forgot I was hungry until I’d started eating." She threw a speculative look over her shoulder at the bar. "How’s the stew here?"
"It’s generally safe to put in your mouth," Varric assured her. "I’d probably suggest going the bread and meat route, though. The roast is always better than the stew. Stew’s… it’s really not bad, but it’s really not that exciting."
"Stew’s almost never exciting. It’s stew," Theron pointed out. "And no to Orlesian anything, with or without heaving bosoms. Orlesians. Just as bad as Tevinter, but even less tolerant."
"Don’t get him started on Orlais." Kalli warned, standing up. "I’m going to go figure out what’s slightly more exciting than stew. Do you want anything?"
"Cheese and beer," Theron said, snagging another handful of nuts. "And a bowl of those mixed pickles. Kirkwall has the best pickles."
"Do the Dalish even have pickles?" Varric asked, as Kalli made her way toward the bar.
"Of course we have pickles. What the fuck kind of question is that?" Theron laughed and spit shells into his hand. "We just make them differently. More salt, less vinegar. Lots more spice. But, you guys have sweet pickles. And there’s another upside to settling down. Do you know how difficult it is to make good wine or hard cheese, if you’re travelling?"
"Well, I can’t say I’ve tried," Varric said, "but my imagination’s pretty good. Speaking of settling down, how’s the building going?"
"A bit slow." Theron shrugged one shoulder. "There’s so much measuring and checking and measuring again, making modifications to the plan and doing the whole thing over. I did not realise buildings took so much work. I have patience for a gaggle of elflets but not for that."
"That also might just because you’re working with Artie," Varric pointed out. "You know how he is."
"Oh, do I ever."
Varric wasn’t going to ask about the way Theron waggled his eyebrows. He didn’t need to know. He didn’t want to know.
"But, I know it will be lovely," Theron said between licking bits of nuts from his teeth. "The Alienage is… It’s no longer a slums. It’s a monument, and…" Theron trailed off when he noticed Varric’s attention was elsewhere, particularly on whatever was happening past his shoulder.
With his back to the bar, Theron couldn’t see his wife, but he could hear the meaty sound of a fist meeting skin and then Kalli’s voice. "I ordered meat, not a meat
"You going to go help her out?" Varric asked, when Theron didn’t move but to turn in his chair for a better view.
"Varric, I married the Bane of Denerim. I’m not getting in the middle of that." Theron laughed and then called out, "Do you need another set of hands, vhenan?"
"I didn’t marry you for your fists, Theron," Kalli shouted, ramming her own fist into another unfortunate drunk’s nose.
"No, you married me for my sword!"
"I will come over there and hit you," Kalli warned, "but, after I’m done with this shem trash. I’ll even wipe off my hand first."
"You see that?" Theron asked Varric, loudly enough for most of the room to hear. "She loves me. She’ll even wipe the shem-shit off her hands before she decks me for my all-too-accurate commentary."
"You’re really not—?" Varric stopped as Kalli’s fist was followed by her knee, and a drunken sailor sprawled, bloody, across the floor. "Nah, I guess you’re right. She’s got a mean left hook!" He took another swig of beer and sketched out a quick plan for a sidebar of the fight. "So, tell me what you’re building up there? Just houses, or have you got some plans for public works?"
"We’ve set aside a few buildings for that, yes," Theron replied. He checked his cup, shaking the last few drops together to see if it was really empty. "The biggest is a school. Or it will be. For teaching crafts and language and history. A proper building where we might even keep books!"
Varric smiled at Theron’s enthusiasm, only to wince at the heavy sound of a head meeting the bar. He looked up to make sure that head hadn’t been Kalli’s and spotted her near the unconscious drunk, snarling and brandishing a stool over her head. The stool had already taken a beating, one leg snapped and hanging by a few splinters.
Theron glanced back at the bar, but Corff was nowhere to be found. He would have to wait for Kalli to finish before he could get his beer.
"Right." Varric finished the word he’d paused in the middle of writing, ink pooling on the page. "By language, I assume you mean or include Elvish in that. Keeping the traditions alive, eh? Speaking of, what’s the clan doing about leadership after Marethari’s… debacle?"
"Debacle. That’s one word for it." Theron snorted and then jumped at the sound of Kalli’s stool smacking into something solid. "A clan isn’t led by a keeper, alone. Without Merrill, we don’t have anyone qualified to be the new keeper, yet, but we do still have most of our elders, and our storytellers. We’ve got Hahren Paivel in charge, for now, and if anything happens to him, it’s me. Hopefully nothing will happen to him."
"Nobody’s qualified yet? Are you expecting someone to become qualified? I didn’t know that was possible." Varric avoided using the word ‘mage’. Even if the Circle had become optional, it didn’t seem wise to call attention to the fact that not only were there mages running around, but the Dalish put them in charge.
"Well, some of it is a matter of heritage and some is a matter of learning. With all the children we’ve inherited from that magister’s estate, there’s a good chance we’ll get a good match. So, it’s very important that we’re able to teach them everything a keeper should know. Unfortunately, we’re a little short on some of those things, so we’re probably going to need to borrow the First or Second from another clan, when we’re ready to start teaching the hard stuff."
"And another clan’s just going to let you walk off with one of their most important members?" Varric asked, over the sound of breaking glass, looking a bit surprised.
"Probably not. In fact, I’m not sure how many clans will talk to us, at all, since we have no keeper and no halla, but there’s an … event coming up, soon, and it won’t hurt to go ask. Worst comes to worst, we’ll have to ask Merrill to help. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Baroness, but she’s a Baroness. Very busy."
"That’s our Daisy!" Varric saluted her with his drink before sharply bringing it close to his chest, one hand shielding the top from the hail of splinters as Kalli’s stool finally lost its dangling leg. Theron ducked his head and picked out the slivers of wood that had fallen in the nuts. "Though I don’t think that’s the kind of busy she would mind. She loves her clan and… anything elfy, really, and better off teaching elfy than being elfy on a council of Orlesian shit-mongers."
"Kirkwall has an alarming number of those, doesn’t she?" Theron asked, finally picking up a nut once he had deemed the plate clear of debris. "I’d always assumed Orlesian shit-mongers would be in Orlais."
"An easy mistake."
The sounds of fighting had died down enough for Varric to hear Theron’s crunching. Finally, the brawl had ended, and behind Theron, Kalli stood over a sea of slumped bodies, the firewood that had once been a stool still dangling from one hand. She wiped a bit of blood from her nose and leaned over the bar. "How’s the pot roast coming?" she asked what Varric assumed was a cowering Corff.
"Can I get extra pickles, if I drag the bleeding pile of idiot shemlen outside for you?" Theron called across the room, and some coughing and cackling erupted from a table of dwarves by the fire.
"I’ll buy you a whole nother bowl of pickles if you can actually pick any of them up!" one of the dwarves called over.
Varric groaned, still brushing splinters off the table. "Don’t encourage him, Astyth."
"I’ll have you know I take my encouragement where I can get it, including gifts of sweet pickles from delightful dwarven women," Theron retorted, winking at the dwarf and her companion, as he heaved the first bulky shemlen across his shoulders and made for the door.
A piercing whistle of amazement cut through the room. "Ancestors," Astyth’s companion swore. "Are you sure that’s really an elf, Varric?"
"Going by the ears, my answer’s still yes," Varric said, plucking a splinter out of his jacket cuff. "You haven’t met Fenris, have you? I’ll try to introduce you the next time he’s around. He could pick you two up, one under each arm, and if I get him drunk enough he might try."
"Are you implying I can’t?" Theron called back, voice muffled by the shem’s leg next to his face. "You wound me, Varric."
"I said no such thing," Varric called after him, his words lost in the swing of the door as Theron dropped off his cargo outside. "I was simply making the point not to mess with an elf."
Returning, Theron pointed at Kalli. "She already made that point," he said, bending to pick up the next shem.
Kalli set her pot roast down on the table and slid back into her chair, bloodied but satisfied. "Damn right."