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Vanity

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For a man who has spent much of his life in the wilds, Mahariel is vain. He braids his precious red hair with practiced diligence. When he doesn’t have that pendant with a sliver of darkspawn blood in its glass charm around his neck, he wears a necklace of wooden beads. It is an old thing, each bead adorned with the shape of some beast. So far Morrigan has seen stags, wolves, hawks, and hares on what beads aren’t hidden from sight by his braid. The necklace was his father’s, he tells her, an heirloom of his family given to his mother and reclaimed from her possessions before he left his clan behind. A willow-wood ring, decorated with foxes and rabbits locked in a perpetual chase, is likewise a memento from Clan Sabrae. It was given to him by Keeper Marethari before he went with Duncan. He misses the clan so much that he gave the hound the name “Sabrae,” perhaps to have the familiar word cross his lips again or to keep himself from forgetting the other elves’ faces, names, and stories.

Freely he shares his people’s customs and what he knows of their history with her, unafraid to join her by her campfire. Her isolation from human society is akin to his own, he says. Before leaving with Duncan, he had never laid eyes on a city. His eyes are green and oddly bright, and they seem to smile when he does. His pale face is covered with freckles, and tattoos of dark ink stand out on his forehead, the bridge of his nose, underneath his eyes and on his chin. The many broad, curved strokes from his Keeper’s pen honor Ghilan’nain, patroness of travel and “mother” to the halla his people use to guide their landships. The markings certainly resemble a deer’s head and antlers, but they are so bold she can’t help but be surprised that he would choose them over a subtler design to preserve his features.

Thinking his vanity contagious, he offers her gifts. In Lothering he found a golden necklace, tightly woven together out of many minute strands, and in the Circle a similarly made but shorter necklace of silver to festoon her with.

“Have you taken to heart what you said before, that a Keeper’s blood stretches back to the nobility of Arlathan? Do you gift me with this jewelry like a king adorning a vassal?” His father had been Keeper before Marethari, so he could yet claim kinship to ancient and forgotten elven lords. Strangely, Eitan still has his right hand placed behind his back. There must be something else, but before he can present it he laughs at the question. “I wouldn’t want to be a king in Arlathan. If I were… I would never have met you, Morrigan.” He extends his remaining arm, and in his hand lies a thick tome bound in black leather. The grimoire. He had been listening after all. “I prefer to think of you as my friend, not… Not as someone who serves. You’re helping end the Blight as much as Alistair and I are.” As she traces the tree on the book’s cover with her fingers, silence falls between them. “… Morrigan?” Her yellow eyes dart up to see the elf gain color in his cheeks. “’Tis a fine gift. I’m pleased that my suggestion did not fall on deaf ears. I need some time now to study this text, Grey Warden.” She turns away, not allowing him to object, and only after the sound of his footsteps on the grass vanishes does she notice the burning warmth on her own face and rapid beating of her heart. Damn Mahariel and his misplaced care.