Whatever Dagna had been expecting of her first days in the Circle Tower, it wasn't cleaning up rooms full of splintered furniture and twisted, rotting flesh, or crawling through half-collapsed hallways to find missing artifacts, or sorting through rubble to find stones and bricks that might be reused in building, or standing in a pile of books and handing them, one at a time, to the much taller people -- humans and elves, mages and templars -- who were setting them back into place.
She'd walked in the front door, letter of introduction in hand, eager to get started. The templar on duty had barely looked at it before sending her to Knight-Commander Greagoir's office. Greagoir, too, had not paid much attention to Dagna's explanation of who she was. "If the Warden vouches for you, fine," he'd said. "But you won't be getting any magic lessons today, or tomorrow, or in the next fortnight. Right now we're rebuilding, and if you can lend a hand to that effort, fine."
"Sure, I can help." Dagna had pulled herself up straight and smiled. "I'm from the smith caste-- was," she hastily corrected herself. "I mean, was the smith caste. Surfacer dwarf now, no caste. Right." She took a quick breath and started again. "Anyway, if you need smithing, I'm happy to lend a hand. And if you just need someone to haul things or crawl into tight spaces, I'm good for that, too."
"Wonderful. You're hired." Greagoir had sent her off to one of the other templars, who had decided that collecting fallen debris, and searching for bricks and stones that could be reused, was a good use of a dwarf, and she had done that and every other chore requested without complaint for a week.
But a girl can only wait so long when the realization of her life-long dream is right at her fingertips, and on the eighth day she found herself dragging a little. The day's project was working the library, turning heaps of books into neat stacks, which particularly rankled. It was so unfair to have her hands on so many fascinating books without any time to read them. She let out a heavy sigh, and the closest mage -- so tall, he loomed over her, although really everyone here was tall, how will she ever get used to being in a land of giants? -- stopped sorting the books and arched a ginger eyebrow at her.
"Something wrong?" he asked.
"Oh, no, nothing!" Dagna shook her head and smiled. "It's fine. Just a little tired."
"Tired, or bored?" The man looked around as if to check whether any templars were listening, then leaned closer. "If it's bored, I wouldn't blame you. I thought I'd take years of boredom after that terrifying attack, but there's only so long that feeling lasts, you know?"
Dagna giggled, then lowered her voice to match his conspiratorial tone. "I can understand that. Well, not the terrifying attack part. I mean, obviously there's always the threat of a darkspawn incursion, but that's not the same as actually surviving one, and I've been lucky that Orzammar hasn't had one of those in my lifetime. And I guess you have, although that wasn't darkspawn was it? Even though there's a Blight going on. Was it demons? We never get demons in Orzammar. Oooh, I wonder if I'll ever get to see a demon!"
The man flinched away. "Maker, I certainly hope not!"
"Oh, I'm sorry," Dagna stepped back from him, clasping her hands in front of her. "I'm just too excited to be here; I got carried away. My name's Dagna, by the way. What's yours?"
He held out his hand, and she relaxed, leaning back in for a shake. "Finn," he said. "Well, actually Florian Phineas Horatio Aldebrant, Esquire, but no one ever calls me that. Ever. Please." He winced; that had to be a bad name for a human, to evoke a reaction stronger than when she'd just talked about meeting demons. "So please, just Finn."
"Of course." She smiled again. "Pleasure to meet you."
"So what brings a dwarf to the Circle?" Finn asked, taking the next book she handed him. "You can’t possibly be a mage, and I’ve never seen a dwarf templar.”
“Right on both counts,” Dagna replied. “There’s no chantry in Orzammar, so no one ever recruits dwarves to the templars, although I suppose there’s nothing that stops a surface dwarf from converting?” She raised an eyebrow in Finn’s direction; he just shrugged. “And I don’t have a lick of innate magical talent, but it’s not from lack of trying. See, I've always been fascinated by magic. When I was little, I spent so many nights lying awake, trying to sense the Fade or summon up even a tiny little spell. I even licked a lyrium rock once, to see if that might trigger something.”
Finn started, the book he held nearly slipping from his grasp. Well, that was fair, Dagna thought. Maybe surfacers didn't know about dwarves and lyrium. “Maker's breath!" He adjusted his grip on the book, put it carefully on the shelf, and then shot her a look. "I’m surprised that didn’t kill you.”
“Nah. Dwarves have resistance, you know? Enough that we can handle lyrium in small amounts, anyway. So it didn’t kill me. But I did get sick for a week, and my dad started locking up his lyrium supply. For making enchanted weapons,” she added, as Finn's eyes widened. Did mages really not know how items were enchanted? "I came from the smith caste, and my father was a fine smith. He was hoping that I'd follow him into the family business, or maybe marry up into a better caste, but, well. Life takes you where it takes you!" She chuckled, then stopped, noting that Finn was still staring at her, mouth half open now. Were surfacers really this ignorant of dwarven culture? Or was it-- "Oh. I'm sorry. I'm talking too much, aren't I?" She took a deep breath, then let it out with a chuckle and a quick headshake. "I do that, I'm afraid. You'll just have to tell me to shut up if I'm overdoing it. I promise I won't mind."
Finn stood stock still for a moment, then relaxed with a small laugh of his own. "It's fine. I-- we've all been on edge, as you might imagine. That's all. And really, it's somewhat refreshing to talk to someone who didn't go through-- all this." He waved his hand around in a circle as if to indicate the mess that still piled up around them. "And, well." He leaned closer to her again, smile widening. "To be honest, I'm more used to being on the other side of this sort of conversation. Going on about something that someone else isn't interested in, some factoid of Tevinter history or arcane linguistics."
"Ooh." Dagna bounced on her toes twice, then forced herself to be still. "I don't know much about Tevinter history, and almost nothing about arcane linguistics, so you could tell me almost anything and I would be interested."
Finn's eyes lit up, and Dagna grinned back at him. Maybe he was a kindred spirit after all. "Well, we are almost done for the day." He glanced over his shoulder to the templar standing guard at the corner of the room. "Ser Hadley?"
The templar sighed. "Fine. Just get back to it first thing in the morning."
"Thank you, ser." Finn bowed, then looked at Dagna. "We're in the section on ancient elven language, much of which was appropriated for use in Tevinter spell-casting. I could show you some of my favorites."
Dagna sat down, cross-legged on the floor. "Absolutely!"
He pulled a book out of the stack and started flipping the pages, and she leaned forward, hands in her lap. Finally, she thought, everything she ever dreamed of, coming true in the library of a Circle tower. With Finn's help, she'll be the most learned dwarf in the world for sure.