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Not His Job

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This is foolish. Bizarre. Uncalled for.

He should never have allowed the idea to take root, to grow within his mind, rustling with ceaseless whispers and scraping demandingly at the back of his skull till he could stand it no longer and had to leap up and take off, marching in broad purposeful strides across the wilds while the milky mist lapped against his waist and cloaked his shoulders and condensed in sweat-like dewdrops on the stem of the unlit pipe that he kept chewing at with a quiet ferocity.

He should never. Should never have heeded the rustles, the scraping, whatever. He should have just stayed put at Skyhold, where he has been graciously allowed to stay as an agent of the Inquisition. Should have minded his own business.

But fenedhis, that's his problem, isn't? He never does mind his own business.

He presents himself as this grumpy forest hermit type: morose, taciturn; glaring at people through strands of greying red hair that he has been growing out for Creators know how long; claiming that he gets a headache from being around anyone everyone except for Blackwall (oh, that human knows the value of silence; of just sitting there, breathing in the tangy pipe smoke, and working with your hands at a pace that is steady and measured like your own heartbeat). But he never properly acts the part. He never stays away from the people he claims to hate so much.

Even before he joined the Inquisition - getting it into his stupid old head that they might have use for more hedge mages with a penchant of strangling people with hostile plant life - he would always emerge from the dark, well-like depths of his beloved woodlands to shame shemkind, and stay the hand of those who would hurt one of the People, vallaslin or no. And a less fortunate shem for that matter - some cowering, sniffling farmboy behind with his rent to a whipping-happy landlord, or a maid in an all-too-tight corset that detests the squeezing hand upon her breast but cannot afford to lose the position that helps her feed her family.

And when he sees someone like that: someone vulnerable, someone suffering, someone cornered by a greed-swollen, spider-like shem that will look so good impaled on conjured brambles - he just... forgets that he is supposed to mind his own business.

This has earned him the reputation of a 'Wandering Keeper'. A legendary figure; little short of a new-age god who, when summoned, will punish those who wronged you, and guide you down a winding forest path to a place where you can start anew. Oh, Dread Wolf's matted gut fur - he detests that title! He is no Keeper. Not any longer. His clan is gone, murdered by a demon through his own negligence. He does not deserve to be called that - Keeper, hahren, guardian - just as he does not deserve the markings of Mythal, etched into his cheekbones long ago, once bright emerald-green like the woodland realm of his ancestors, now pale against his sun-bronzed skin.

He is no Keeper - but when he was... It was his job to remember. To pass on what scant knowledge of the old ways that he has been entrusted with, and make certain that the da'len absorb it.

And this is what has been bothering him, he supposes. Finding a way to pass knowledge to Inquisitor Lavellan.

She holds her ground just fine, that stout-hearted da'len with skin as white as the silken fur of the halls, whose goddess's markings weave across her brow, and hair as pale as the dry, wilting grass that carpets the cliff-framed badlands that the People still remember as Dirthavaren, The Land of Promise, and the humans call Exalted Plains - because to them, apparently, the torment of other gods' children is something to exalt. 

She holds her ground just fine - and woe is the fool that would dare rhink otherwise; woe is the growling demon or sneering cultist or lumbering husk of vile red crystal that thinks a blind woman would make easy prey.

She holds her ground just fine. Though rendered sightless by the same condition that makes her so pale and painfully sensitive to sunlight, she holds her ground. She perseveres. She fights, a deadly whirlwind of green on the battlefield, a sight that often makes poor Blackwall choke on something unsaid but very definitely awestruck, his face red like an exceedingly hairy tomato.

And she explores, and she learns.

She studies the world as diligently as any other First of the People - if not more so - by delving into the Fade, where the spirits build clear images for her, on the foundation of her childhood memories, left from a time when her world still had colours in it; and taking in the sounds and the smells and the textures of the waking realm. 

The textures. Yes. The textures. Any artifact of the Elvhenan that they find on their journeys, every etching with ancient text and every fragment of a shattered statue, she can study by touch, passing her long white fingers along every crevice, every notch and every bump on the grainy stone surface, with her face turned up and set into an intent, almost stern expression. She has it covered; she holds her ground.

But what worries him are those bits of timeless legacy, left by the elves of old on their landmarks before their grand empire crumbled, that cannot be rebuilt within the mindscape by sheer touch. Those bits of legacy that do not have three dimensions. That do not have etched writing or prominent sculpted details. Frescoes. Depictions of gods' visages, and majestic forest beasts that render their aid when treated with respect, and scenes from the gatherings of the People. Seeping in bold chalky lines through the canvas-like cliffsides.

Frescoes are flat, and if you pass your hand across them, the only thing you are going to feel will be rock. Coarse and porous, with an occasional sharp, protruding bit, moist and fuzzy with moss in some places, and warm like an oven in others, where the afternoon sun lingers the most.

Touch will tell you - will tell her - all of that; it will tell the story of a rock. But not the story of the colours that it bears. And for him, that is troubling; that is damnably unfair. 

Human hunters and soldiers see these frescoes every day, as they make their way along the twists and turns of the faint, semi-nonexistent pathway in the shelter of the cliffs to stalk game or to scout the movements of their 'enemy' - the very same humans, just ones that wear slightly different heraldry in that civil war of theirs. They see these frescoes, and pass by them, unaware of their meaning - while a Keeper's First, whose job, when she completes her training, will be to remember, sees nothing but pitch blackness, and feels nothing under her hand but sun-kissed stone. That is not right; that has to be fixed!

And she is perfectly capable of fixing it herself. She can just visit the Fade around these cliffs, and study the frescoes to her heart's content. This ought to be enough for him; he ought to mind his own business.

But he never has.

Instead of making himself useful at Skyhold, he ventures out into the mist, and revisits each of the ancient Elvhen sites that the Inquisitor and her companions have encountered, and sits down, cross-legged, in front of each fresco, his pipe puffing, his eyes squinting through the spectacles that Lady Montilyet has kindly procured for him - ah, Lady Montilyet... A rare human with both sense and grace. Beautiful and unreachable like a golden sunrise. Ah. Never mind.

He sits, and he smokes, and he carves, the motions of his knobby fingers practiced and precise. He takes little chips of wood, no more than half his palm in size (and after all the excess has been chiselled off, even smaller than that), and copies onto them the images on the stone before him, turning them into miniscule reliefs. A halla with antler like the tangled canopy of an age-old tree, forever frozen in mid-leap; a great bear with a gaping toothy maw, trampling the undergrowth outlined in simple circular shapes; a hunter watchful on a hilltop, his body traced in a single flowing contour from which only three things stand out: his bow, the gull wing spread of his eyebrows, and the half-moon indentations to mark his eyes.

He recreates them all, adding volume and dimension and form that can be studied by careful touch of pale fingertips. He completes one carving after the other, until he is left with an entire necklace of them: a string of sculpted tablets, to always wear around your neck. To always remember.

He does not know if he will ever give the necklace to her. If he will at least leave it in her quarters, and then ask Blackwall - whom she trusts more than anyone else - to place it into her hand next time he drops by to see her, and explain what it is. He does not even know why he has bothered to go through all of this. It is a foolish notion, after all. Bizarre. Uncalled for. 

He is not a Keeper passing on what he has discovered to an eager First. He is not even a respected hahren sharing insights into the life of the ancestors. He does not deserve to call himself that.

It is no longer his job.

And yet.