[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 22
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Ella ♀, Merrill ♀, Varania ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Lacy underthings and phylacteries
Notes: Shopping for gifts. More talk of phylacteries, and some talk of gentlemen in lacy underthings.
The jingle of the bell over the door told Varania that they had customers, and she looked up from the ledger, her saleswoman smile plastered on before she saw who it was. At the sight of Merrill, her smile eased into something more natural.
"Ah! Good morning, ladies!" she called out, stepping out from behind the counter to greet them.
"Good to see you again, Varania!" Ella greeted her, stepping out from behind Merrill. Her hair was brushed over her forehead but didn’t quite hide the brand. "Is it ready yet or am I too early?"
Varania held up one finger, smile growing. "It’s in the back. I’ll go get it. You ladies shop around a little!"
Merrill eyed a basket of odd sizes. "You know, Theron’s birthday is coming up, soon. The clan never makes a big deal of it. It’s because he’s an orphan. Celebrating his survival might bring down some last strike on the clan. Of course, given the things we’ve already been through, that seems a little silly. Other people get little gifts and sweets."
"Oh, how terrible for him!" Ella looked shocked that someone who seemed to have a family would still do without. "Of course, we don’t celebrate, either. I don’t even know when my birthday is, but I’m sure mum will remind me, when it’s time. It’s so good to see her, again."
"Well, seeing how the Hawkes celebrate, it just feels wrong not to do something nice. When you find yours, let me know. You should have a nice celebration, too." Merrill smiled, easily, picking through the basket of lacy panties.
"Are you sure this is what you should be getting him?" Ella asked, after a moment, when Merrill picked up a particularly tiny pair.
"Of course! Fran’s is Theron’s favourite thing about Kirkwall. He loves these. You should see the ones Kalli talked him out of." Merrill grinned. "Even I thought they looked a little impractical, with a sword like his."
Ella giggled into her hand, wondering if any sword could fit into the panties Merrill picked up to inspect. "The lace on that one is a nice touch," she said, face red from laughter.
"Mm, a bit itchy, though. Here." She held out the fabric for Ella to feel. "He complained about the waistband of the last ones leaving a mark. I’d been wondering why he’d kept squirming through dinner…"
Ella started poking through the basket with Merrill. "I don’t know his size, but… how about these? Feel."
"Ooh, silky!" Merrill cooed. "That shade of blue would look lovely on him. Not sure his hips are that wide, though."
"Who are you shopping for?" Varania asked, returning from the back carrying a box. She hoped this time no one was shopping for her brother.
"Theron Mahariel," Merrill replied. "He’s an old friend. And a regular here, I think."
"Ah yes. I know Theron." Varania handed the box off to Ella and reached into the basket of panties, pulling out the same pair they were looking at, but in a smaller size. "This should fit him better. Though I warn you he already has that colour. Perhaps a pair in red? Or a nice emerald?"
"Oh, a green would look good on him. He looks good in green," Merrill agreed, digging through the basket for another pair in the same size.
"Is this it?" Ella asked, gesturing at the box.
"Your hat? Yes. Here, let me help you try it on. It’s a little difficult, the first time." Varania opened the box to reveal a hat in pale gold with black accents. "Hold your hair to the side?"
Ella faced Varania and did so, noting that she was now facing away from any other customers, while Varania fitted the hat on her.
"Under the back, there are two straps. They’re the ends of the black part in front. You tie those, and then it doesn’t slide down. The frame is a little bit large, but it’s wooden, so it will shrink a bit, in time." Varania brought Ella’s hands up to the straps and held the hat still as she tied them. "And I thought you might like it with a flower, instead of the emblem of Minrathous."
As Varania stepped back, Ella turned to look in one of the mirrors. "Oh, it’s lovely! I hardly even recognise myself! I look so exotic, like someone important!"
"Well, you are shopping with a baroness," Varania pointed out.
"Oh, that’s me!" Merrill said after a moment, beaming. "I’m still not used to that, even after all the Noble Council meetings I’ve tried not to sleep through. Baroness! But oh, Ella, you are far more important than a baroness! And you’ll be setting the fashion in Kirkwall once the Orlesians see you."
Ella preened, grinning at Merrill’s reflection as she adjusted the hat on her head. It was perfect, sharp, gorgeous, and it hid the sunburst on her forehead for the days she didn’t feel like dealing with it. "This is fantastic, Varania! Thank you!"
"My pleasure." Varania tipped her head graciously. "Now, my darling Merrill. Was that a yes to the green?" At Merrill’s nod, Varania reached into the basket again, pushing aside fabric until she pulled out a pair of green panties in the correct size. Merrill cooed at the colour, which Varania took to be a good sign. "Now, are you looking for anything to go with these panties? We have stockings over by this table that I think would go lovely with this shade of green."
"Stockings?" Ella said, looking equal parts surprised and impish. "Oh, let’s."
"So," Merrill sighed, nudging folded pairs of stockings, "Carver is very upset about something Cullen’s offered to do, and I really don’t understand why. I can’t think of anyone better to ask, than the two of you. Both mages and not Dalish."
"Oh, no," Ella groaned. "Keran heard them yelling. It’s the phylactery, isn’t it?"
Merrill nodded. "Cullen’s said it would help him or Carver find me, if there’s a problem. He knows I hunt demons, and he wants to be sure that if anything goes wrong, he can send in another team to finish the job and save me. It sounds very considerate, really. I don’t understand why Carver’s so upset!"
"Phylacteries are used to track escaped mages," Ella explained, carefully. "They’re part of what keeps us from being able to just leave the tower. Well, until Cullen. I think Carver’s upset because he doesn’t want anyone else to be able to track you. If templars came from Val Royeaux, they could make Cullen turn over the phylacteries — what of them are left, anyway — and start hunting people down."
"Oh." Merrill’s brows knit in concern as she tried to right a set of stockings she’d knocked aside. "Well, that does seem bothersome. Does that happen often?"
"Often?" Ella said. "No, not often. But if they come the one time, that would be more than enough."
"And you have a phylactery, right?" Varania asked, reaching past Merrill to properly fix what she’d just tried to fix. Ella nodded. "What has happened to it, now that Cullen is letting the mages go? Did they keep yours because you’re still around?"
"I… honestly, I don’t know. I’m a bit afraid to ask, and if Keran hasn’t said anything, I doubt there’s anything for me to know. It’s probably still there, somewhere, but I don’t think they mean to ever use it. Did… did they do anything like that in Tevinter?"
"For all mages? No." Varania scoffed, shaking her head. She picked up a pair of stockings with a subtle but intricate Orlesian design and held them up against the panties they’d already chosen. "Slaves, on the hand… Even after I was freed, Danarius held onto mine. I… have no idea what’s become of it, but I can’t imagine it would be useful to anyone else. Here. What do you think of this combination?"
"Oh, those are lovely! Will they fit around his thighs?" Merrill asked, squinting at the tops. "I think those will definitely be more of a gift for Kalli."
"That’s… He wears things like this on purpose?" Ella asked again, eyeing the lace. "I just keep thinking of Keran and…" She broke off laughing. "Oh, but maybe something simple. Something blue… He looks so handsome in blue."
Varania reached behind her and picked up a very plain pair of polished silk smalls. She offered them to Ella. "Perhaps something with a bit less trim? From what I’ve seen, templars tend to less … flamboyant tastes."
"That is… ooh!" Ella turned them over in her hands, imagining Keran wearing them. "Absolutely. I’ll take a pair and I’ll be back for more once I know if they fit."
"I’m sure those would show off his bottom, nicely, but can you even see it under all those skirts?" Merrill looked quizzically at the smalls Ella held.
"I was hoping he’d wear them without the skirts in the way!" A lecherous grin crept across Ella’s face and she burst out in giggles. "But, really, Merrill, I think Carver’s just worried about someone else using your phylactery to hurt you. If Cullen’s really the only one with access to it, I don’t see any harm in it, except the part where they stab you a bit to get blood for it."
"Oh, who hasn’t gotten stabbed a bit in Kirkwall?" Merrill asked cheerfully, waving the thought aside. "And Carver worries too much, really. It’s terribly sweet, but sometimes he works himself up into a fit and then it’s hard for me to calm him down."
"Maybe you could distract him with some smalls of his own," Ella suggested, shaking with giggles. "What about a nice lacy pair in black?" She poked at the assortment behind her.
"Black would be lovely," Merrill agreed as Varania handed her a second set of stockings to inspect. "But you know, he would look so dashing in red." Before she said another word, Varania handed her a pair of lacy red smalls and winked. Merrill looked sorely tempted before she shook her head, biting her lip against a laugh. "As wonderful as he would look, I doubt he would enjoy them as much as I do, and then I’d end up with him making wet cat faces for the rest of the evening."
"Not big on smalls?" Varania teased.
"He’s a bit silly like that." Merrill shrugged. "But ooh, these are nice!" She played with the stockings a bit, testing the give of the bands at the top. "A bit stretchier."
"The lace gives a bit. They’ll get much wider without tearing, but they’ll still hold their shape. Might get a bit shorter, though. Garters are a must." Varania smiled at the fascination on Merrill’s face. "You know, we haven’t had a night out for a while, ladies. Shall I see if I can lure Orana away from my brother, for a night?"
"Oh, do make sure she brings Evantia!" Ella grinned and shook her head. "The things that woman knows about people!"
"Orana told me that Artemis has been getting flowers from some secret admirer from Antiva," Merrill added, her eyes sparkling. "I want to know more about that!"
"Has he? Fenris hasn’t mentioned anything, but their house has looked a bit… floral, lately. I assumed Evie was bringing Orana flowers, but this is much more interesting!" Varania covered her smile with one hand. "Shall I put those on your tabs for this month, and see if I can get Evantia to come out with us on Washday?"
"Yes, please!" Ella bounced enthusiastically, and her hat stayed put, the golden drape fluttering against the backs of her shoulders.
"Let’s do it at my house," Merrill volunteered. "Everyone bring something. I’ll get those little Orlesian cheese and sausage balls."