“Why would you ever want to go out onto the surface?” Janar had once said. “There’s nothing up there that can’t be done in Orzammar. Everything you need is right here. Everything you could possibly want is right here. You have your caste to support you. Do you know what they do up there? There’s no caste. They feed one another to the dogs when they get tired of each other.”
Dagna found herself staring at her pet nug and wondering how anyone could feed a friend or a relative to a four-legged friend. Feed a friend to a friend? It didn’t seem right.
“Humans,” Janar muttered a few days later, after buying and selling goods from one of the many tradesmen that journeyed to Orzammar and waited just inside the great doors to the city. “Sometimes I think that the air at their height is thin. Perhaps it’s too much sun. Fries their brains like nug livers in a pot. Do you know what they do? Worship the air. Wait, what am I saying? Of course they worship the air. It’s all around them and above them. They speak of Andraste and the Maker while looking to the skies above, as if their gods will fly down to meet them, like some kind of bird. Strange, isn’t it? Don’t they get up to strange things?”
It was as if Janar was looking for Dagna’s approval even as he made a misguided attempt to educate her. Dagna didn’t have an opinion on the matter of human religion, anyway. She merely shrugged her shoulders and continued her work, be it at the forge or merely setting out the plates and mugs on their dinner table.
Dagna noticed that some dwarves, her father being one of them, spent just too much of their day pretending that they weren’t curious about what the humans were up to. They veiled this curiosity with curses and the shaking of their heads, but in truth, these dwarves were the first to the gates when the human traders and couriers came through, clamoring for news, any news, perhaps a leaflet or something from faraway sounding places. These cities had names that danced in Dagna’s young mouth: Denerim, Minrathous, and Antiva.
“Pity about the elves.” It seemed that Janar had an opinion about everything. “Back in the ancient days, they taught humans a thing or two. Then, how did the humans repay them? Destroyed everything that they held dear. Now, they’ve got nothing but heads full of stories.” He jabbed a heated steel plate in Dagna’s direction; she was grateful that she wasn’t within striking distance at the time. “You hear me? The Stone never forgets the transgressions of those that have long passed. Humans are nothing but trouble. Someday, they’ll be trouble for Orzammar.”
Those were auspicious words, and should have frightened Dagna, but they did not. They drove her instead out of her parents’ forge and out into the open air, where the sun did not burn her up, and the sky did not swallow her whole.
There were days that she craved the close, encompassing stone and the faces of her people. On those same days, she found herself hating the constant pain in her neck that she carried from looking up to speak to humans and elves. It was worse in the years that she served in the army and worked for Lucius – why did their Maker have to make Lucius and Anders so tall, anyway? At least Hawke’s height seemed somewhat humble and didn’t cause her shoulders to twitch after hours of talking with him.
She would rub her own neck – or have Sigrun rub it for her – and she would remember a time when everything seemed the same, day after day. There was no snow or rain or cloudy skies, but stone, stone, brown stone, grey stone. Torches lit the way through tunnels that didn’t seem to change. The castes remained untouched, the same families in the Diamond Quarter waged war against one another. And the Darkspawn always threatened the shadows of the passage that led into the Deep Roads.
Dagna was glad that she was born with an open mind, but loathed herself on the days that she felt weaker. On those days, her father’s words seemed an easy comfort, but too easy for her. No. Nothing was easy in her life, and where her hands sought to stretch to the sky, her mind meant to spring open, free in a world with sun and rain, with the wide-spread plumage of countless birds filling the air.