[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 24
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Natia Brosca ♀, Varania ♀, Merrill ♀, Fenris ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Theron Mahariel ♂, Varric ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Lacy smalls and sword jokes
Notes: Theron has a birthday.
Natia looked pleased as she finished her circuit around the latest of the new houses, pausing to jot something down in her notes, shorthand symbols only she could read. It was solid dwarf construction with elfish design, made with less stone and more windows than made her comfortable, but, she had to admit, the end result was graceful.
"Looks solid to me," she said, glancing back at Ashalle. "Just gotta do a bit of clean-up, and then you can move a family into their new home. Or… well, it doesn’t have to be a family, but you get my gist. How are the last structures holding up?"
"I don’t think Hahren Paivel knows what to do with his yet," Ashalle said with a soft chuckle, "but he’s already expressed how grateful he is, especially after that rainstorm earlier in the week."
Artemis hummed, chewing his lip as he checked for errors and asymmetry in the aesthetic details. He told himself to ignore the sorts of details only he would notice. That was easier said than done. "That was not a pleasant storm. I hope he let you borrow his roof?"
"Of course. He’s smarter than he looks," Ashalle teased.
"Now," Natia cut in, tapping her lip with her quill. "I know we originally discussed putting the library here." She took a large step to indicate where, roughly, they’d plotted out the entrance. "But that was before I took a good look at this cliffside, which I think we can use to our advantage. No point in letting all this stone go to waste, when it’s right here."
"This cliffside?" Artie asked, pointing, as though there were any other cliffside she could mean. "You want to dig into this mountain? One word. Varterral. No, wait. Two words. Varterral and pride demon. No, no, make that three words. Varterral, pride demon, and dragon lady."
"That’s… are you hyphenating those words in your mind or do we need to discuss your idea of counting?" Natia asked.
Artie cleared his throat. "My point is valid, even if I’m terrible at expressing it."
"I’m not sure the varterral’s cave is that close to this cliff," Ashalle pointed out. "I haven’t been inside it since we discovered the varterral, obviously, but I don’t recall the upper passages heading this way. And the entrance is below the ground level, here, so it’s only the upper level we’d be cutting into, if we hit it, at all. Still, it might be worth a survey. That thing’s usually not up top, right?"
"What… is a varterral?" Natia asked, looking between the two of them.
"A holy guardian of ancient sites favoured by Dirthamen, our god of wisdom and learning. The legends say he made them from the mountain and the forest to protect a city from dragons. They are, it seems, truly eternal." Ashalle made no effort to keep the awe out of her voice.
"They’re frightening spider-like creatures with an odd number of limbs," Artie huffed, trying not to think about Cormac and his gods and that ridiculous tattoo. "And they really can’t be killed. I’ve tried. Twice. But my point was less about the varterral — which, frankly, is frightening enough — and more about the fact that this mountain is full of weird shit, and I’d rather we not unearth something else that could potentially eat us."
"Right. Survey team before digging. We can do that." Natia nodded and made a note on the corner of the page. "I know this mountain is full of caves, and while I’d love to make use of the existing structure, I don’t want to do it with this building. And I definitely don’t want to do it anywhere we’re going to run into holy spiders." She paused and eyed the cliff. "I still want to smooth that slope and add a little support, to make sure it doesn’t slide. Looks like we loosened the top a little with all the slamming things into the ground we’ve been doing, down here."
Ashalle leaned over and smudged a line on the drawing. "Ease off, here. It’s supposed to be a bear, not a bereskarn."
"Well, considering I’ve never seen either of those things, I think that was a pretty good guess!" Natia laughed. "Theron! Theron, c’mere! Your ma says your bear looks like a bereskarn!" She squinted up at Ashalle. "You people have scary shit up on the surface, you know that?"
"That is not a bereskarn!" Theron protested, trotting over to the unlikely trio and affecting a look of injured dignity.
"Then what are we these spikes, then?" Natia asked, tilting the drawing so he could see.
"That’s its fur! Bears have fur!"
Artemis shuffled behind Natia and squinted at the drawing. "Oh yeah. I can see where it… fluffs out. Now, I am no bear expert, but I don’t think their fur is quite that spiky or… grows out from their faces in that direction."
"Well, why don’t we ask one, and you can draw it?" Theron huffed, hands on his hips.
Artie shrugged at Natia. "Still a better bear than I can draw. Just… follow the basic shape. A less spiky shape."
Natia shrugged in kind. "He could have given it wings, and I wouldn’t know the difference." Fingers drumming along the back of her notes, Natia returned her attention to the cliffside. "It occurs to me that magic would make shaping the rock much simpler. That’s primal magic, right? Don’t we have a few mages who specialise in that on the construction crew? Or is this too big a scale for them to work on?"
Artemis cleared his throat and scratched at his arm. "We… have a few of those, yes. Some better suited than others."
"By which you mean not you," Theron clarified, tossing an arm around Artie’s waist. "Really, not him. There won’t be a cliff left."
"Yeah, this seemed a little precise. No offence." Natia winked at Artie. "I know we want you when it comes to really pounding things down. Fenris must be so lucky."
Theron choked on his tongue and Ashalle excused herself to go check on the roast that was cooking near where Fenris was leaning against a tree, dazzling some young women with wild stories of his adventures.
Artie’s whole face reddened embarrassingly fast, and he coughed to hide his hysterical laughter. "Pounding of things… does happen when I’m around," he said, darting a look at his husband.
"And he’s got a real talent for improbable uses for tight spaces." Theron grinned and wiggled his eyebrows, before the sound of swearing and shifting gravel drifted up from the approach to the camp.
"Ancestors!" A recognisable voice drifted up. "I keep telling you girls I’m a dwarf, not a horse!"
Theron’s eyebrows shot straight up. "Fenris? Come help me save Varric from some giggling girls?"
Looking a bit confused, but still terribly smug, Fenris extracted himself from the small crowd around him and made his way toward where Varric was trying and clearly failing to drag a cart over the last rise… accompanied by Merrill and Varania. "Didn’t I tell you to stay away from my sister?" he joked. "It wasn’t because I was worried about her."
Theron laughed and slid down the edge of the road. "Lovely to see you both. And you too, Merrill."
Merrill swatted him on the arm. "Is that what you say to the only person who remembered what day it is?"
"The… second of Guardian?" Theron ventured, bracing himself behind the cart. "Grab the front, Fenris. We can move this."
"I could move this," Fenris called out. "What is this ‘we’ business?"
"Oh, come on, at least make it look like we’re exerting some effort, here!" Theron laughed. "Sorry, Varric. It’s really just you."
Varric flapped a hand in the air, panting for breath. "I’m already half convinced Fenris could manhandle a dragon. Where do you even put the strength in those spindly arms?"
Fenris shrugged, moving the cart with an ease that made Varric want to point Bianca between his ears. "Maybe it’s not the arms. Maybe it’s your chest hair weighing you down."
Varric petted his chair hair, not seeming to mind this theory.
"But… really what is all this for?" Theron asked. He stopped even pretending to help move the cart while Fenris showed off, grinning at the ladies he’d just been impressing.
Merrill rolled her eyes and pressed a package into Theron’s hands, a package tied with a blue ribbon. "You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you? For your birthday, you daft fool."
Theron looked back and forth between Merrill and the package in his hands, looking more confused than delighted. "For…? Oh." His brow smoothed in realisation. "Oh, Merrill, you shouldn’t have."
Varric squinted at the pair of them. "That’s not usually how elves respond to birthdays or to receiving gifts."
"Clearly you’ve never gotten a gift from Merrill," Theron quipped.
"They said he was cursed," Merrill filled in. "We weren’t allowed to celebrate. But, it’s a time for change, isn’t it? You can have a new tradition, now."
"You’re out of your mind," Theron managed, throwing his arms around Merrill and squeezing her as he lifted her up. "You know Junar’s going to shit enough bricks to build a house, right?"
"Well, then, Junar doesn’t get cake and ale. I didn’t bring enough for him, anyway," Merrill squeaked, unable to get a deep breath. "Speaking of strong arms…"
"Yes, do put her down, Theron," Varania suggested. "That’s not a colour elves should be, if they’re not my brother."
"Even I don’t turn that colour," Fenris added, checking that he’d stopped the cart on level ground.
Theron cleared his throat and put Merrill back on the ground, blinking a few times, to clear his eyes, before he looked again at the small package. "You… got me something? What did you get me?" he asked, sliding the bow off and settling it around Merrill’s head.
"I made sure they were your size," Varania chimed in, as he lifted the lid.
"Did you really?" Theron tossed the lid of the box and whipped out the small puddle of green lace. "You did! These are amazing!"
"You bought him lacy smalls?" Varric sounded confused as he squinted up at the object of Theron’s excitement.
"Because he wears lacy smalls," Fenris pointed out, shrugging at Varric. "Don’t ask me. Maybe it’s an elf thing. I’m pretty bad at the whole elf thing."
"It’s not an elf thing," Theron primly answered. "It’s a having-good-taste thing. Right, Artemis?" He called out as Artemis and Natia wandered over to investigate the ruckus.
Artie eyed the panties and hid his smirk behind his hand. "That is… not something I plan to have opinions on in public."
"Well, then you can share your opinion later in private," Theron replied with an exaggerated wink. All of this was more than Varric needed to hear.
Artemis took the panties out of Theron’s hand and pulled them down over Theron’s head. "Honestly. Why didn’t you tell me it was your birthday? We’re over here talking about stone and bereskarn when we could be eating cake!"
"I… guess it took me by surprise?" Theron smiled sheepishly, adjusting the panties on his head so they weren’t pressing his ears flat.
Merrill swatted his arm. "Don’t stretch them before you use them! And there’s matching stockings in there, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. Varania recommends garters."
Varania nodded sagely while Fenris cleared his throat. One look at Varric’s face, and he said, "Perhaps we should have saved the presents until after the drinking."
"There is a lot of drinking to do, looking at that cart." Theron threw an arm around Varric. "I’d carry you around, for bringing it all up here, but I think I’d break a shoulder."
"Please don’t pick me up," Varric sighed. "I may be the worst dwarf ever, but I still have a certain appreciation for keeping at least some of my body parts in contact with the ground."
Theron yanked the smalls off his head and put them back in the box. "I should be wearing someone else’s smalls on my head. Wearing my own feels like cheating." He eyed Artie contemplatively. "But, first, the drinking."
"Yes, the drinking, so that when it comes down to smalls and heads, your wife’s will be on my head, and my sister’s will still be on her," Fenris suggested, with a glance at Varania.
"Oh, Fenris," Varania sighed. "If they come off, I promise you won’t see them. I don’t expect Paivel’s that interested in lacy headwear, and if he was, I’d make him a hat. Speaking of which, did you see the lovely hat I made for Ella?"