Disclaimer: I don't own anything; Bioware and EA own the Dragon Age universe.
A/N: This is my take on the courier's journey from Xenon's shop to the Inquisition's door. Gotta love the proprietor of the Black Emporium's randomness.
Petunia Cault was a proud courier.
From a long line of couriers, she'd joyfully leapt into the family business when she was a young teen- unlike her brother Morgan, who had insisted he'd make a better Druffalo rancher.
She initially was a courier just in her hometown of Denerim, then branching out to Amaranthine, because nothing dangerous ever happened there.
Her father, confident that his daughter was safe making her deliveries while traveling with merchants between the two cities, focused on bigger issues. Like how clueless his son was when it came to Druffalos or how the large beasts did not belong inside the city.
Then the Blight hit.
Petunia was in Amaranthine when the horde reached Denerim, though how her father made the horde sound, they were nothing more than a ragtag bunch of bandits wearing stupid-looking armor.
She knew he was trying to make the whole event sound less terrifying than it was, so she always stood by his stories when someone else disagreed. No sense in making the Darkspawn sound invincible.
Eventually, the family was able to rebuild their business, branching out even further from Denerim, until one day a missive came from across the sea. Petunia, in her later 20's by that point, had been shocked to find that it was addressed to her. All it read, written in spidery handwriting on a scroll that looked older than dirt, was a question. How much for shipping of irregular-shaped items?
At the bottom of the scroll was a map, with a tiny red "X" marking something at the center of a maze.
Petunia knew, then, that she was about to embark on one of her strangest journeys ever.
"I'm going to smack whoever sent me on this wild nug chase. I don't care how much they pay, this is ridiculous." Petunia grumbled as she studied the map once more. "Left, left, down, right, over that thingy… Right, right, backtrack, right through a tunnel, up that ladder…" She seemed to have reached her destination, which was another hallway.
The Cault's had been sent on stranger journeys over time; one incident had even resulted in an accidental trip to the Deep Roads for one of her cousins. Even some prank requests that had cost them a little money, but nothing too serious. However, Petunia felt that this was the most elaborate prank that had ever been played on the family before.
"How rude." She grumbled, letting the scroll snap shut. "Blighted idiots."
Surveying her surroundings one more time, Petunia found herself growing a little nervous. Every now and again she could hear the chirping of birds, which made no sense since she was quite a ways underground. Even more unnerving, under the floorboards which she stood atop came a strange rumbling occasionally.
Perhaps I'm near the Deep Roads. Petunia thought nervously, holding her breath as she waited the rumbling out. She thanked the Maker when it stopped once more, not wanting to meet whatever was making the noise.
A click to her right had her whirling, brandishing the dagger she carried at all times, ready to run away.
Instead, she found herself looking at a bear cub.
No, a small bear. Like it was shrunk. Petunia squinted at the creature, which snorted at her from the shadows, before it turned around and ran away.
Petunia's eyes grew large as she studied the doorway before her.
When did that get there? There was no door there before. Must be some magic. Tevinter magic, probably. She thought, approaching the door cautiously.
Dumbfounded, she stepped through the simple doorway and onto a plank bridge across a chasm. Before her eyes, eyes which had seen Darkspawn and extremely large spiders and even some wheels of cheese wearing armor, was a room.
Filled with junk.
Blinking heavily, Petunia one step further into the room, trying to comprehend what she was seeing. So when the screamed command rang out, no wonder she screamed too.
"SHUT THE DOOR! THE NUGS ARE ATTEMPTING TO ESCAPE!"
Petunia threw herself backwards, slamming the door shut in the process, as her eyes bounced around. Trying to spot the madman screaming about nugs when there clearly were none.
Detecting a squeaking that was seemingly nug in nature- her sister-in-law Tridea had a nug that was always escaping out the door- Petunia was amazed to feel something land on her foot before moving away.
"Invisible nug shipment." The original odd voice, belonging to a very old man by the sound of it, croaked from somewhere ahead of her. "You shut the door in time; well done."
"Hello?" Petunia called out, for lack of a better question to ask.
"Oh joy. You're one of those kinds. Yes yes, hello, do come in." The voice was patronizing in tone, making Petunia glare at one of the ugliest statues she'd ever seen.
Starting forward, and tripping over a few invisible nugs as she went, Petunia marched into the main room of the shop of sorts. She was going to give the shop's proprietor a piece of her mind, paying customer or not.
However, the proprietor seemed to be just as invisible as the nugs.
"Show yourself, or I walk out of here and you will be issued a bill for wasting my time." Petunia threatened, though she doubted anyone would ever want to deliver a bill to someplace so suspicious.
Silence greeted her, making her nervous that there was a mage on the premise.
Still curious however, Petunia spoke once more. "Is Xenon the Antiquarian here?"
The tiny bear thundered by, bumping into a small tusket before continuing its mini marathon around the shop. The tusket, meanwhile, grumbled and climbed into a basket, falling asleep.
"I am he." The voice came from the far side of the ugly statue.
Petunia circled the statue and was annoyed to find nothing on the far side but a few tables with schematics. "Menace," she mumbled.
"I resent that, and if I could leave this chair I'd throw you out! Who invited you anyway?" Petunia whipped around and stared in horror at the statue.
"You… The statue?" she asked.
"Yes and no. It's complicated. DO NOT TOUCH THE SOCK BOX!" The statue bellowed, causing Petunia to cower in fear. "It's for guests only." The statement was simple, calm.
And utterly unnerving.
"You are the courier, correct? Petunia Cault?" It asked curiously.
Petunia nodded, clearing her throat as she did. "Y- yes."
There was a thoughtful pause before it spoke again. "You're short."
"I am not short!" Petunia exploded, suddenly not afraid. "I'm tall in comparison to some people."
She adjusted her coat self-consciously when the silence that followed was a little too long.
"I doubt that. I need you to deliver a message for me. An invitation." The statements were rapid, like the statue was in a hurry.
Petunia circled around to what she thought was the front of the statue and eyed it warily. "An invitation?" she repeated, dubious that she had traveled all the way for a piece of paper.
"Yeeees. To my shop." The statement was a "duh", if she'd ever heard one.
Petunia looked around her and, for the first time, noticed that the clutter was slightly organized. Confirming her worst suspicions, in other words.
"Where's it going? We don't deliver to Antiva or too far into the Korcari Wilds. Also, no, we don't deliver anything for the Antivan Crow's. Too much paperwork." Petunia was quick to list.
During another pause, this one much longer, Petunia chose to follow the tiny bear around the shop.
Petunia's head snapped up from observing the tiny bear chewing on a box. "The who?"
The next silence was annoyed for both parties. "They're a new group. Well, soon-to-be group. Just as soon as the Conclave wraps up. I hear they're quite prestigious. A…" he trailed off. "Irrelevant. What's your fee?"
"Depends on where I'm taking it to. Do you have an address for this Inquisition group?" She had a sneaking suspicion that she would have to make a trip to the Orlesian embassy in the Free Marches before she could head home. Maybe make a side trip. Look into some places a Grey Warden she'd met in Amaranthine had mentioned.
"The Frostback Mountains. Haven, actually."
Petunia blinked rapidly. The response was not the one she had expected. "Uh… In Fereldan?"
"No the one in the Anderfels. Yes; are you sure you're a courier?" Xenon's patience, if he had any to begin with, seemed to have worn thin.
"Uh- that'd be- um… Our fee is… Yeah…" Petunia scratched her head, doing the mental calculations quickly. "Just an invitation?"
"Yes. No runes." He stated the second detail like it would help her calculations.
"And just what is this place exactly?" that was her biggest question, really.
Xenon, to her surprise, roared with laughter. "What is- what is…" he gasped for breath before breaking into a sharp coughing fit. Petunia winced as he wheezed, unsure of his age, but almost 100% certain that he was far older than what could logically be explained. "This is the Black Emporium."
Petunia wasn't sure if she was lucky, cursed, or hallucinating, but she'd take the explanation due to the fact that Xenon was the only one around to explain. "Ok. That'll be ah… 30 gold."
There was another pause before Xenon spoke in a haughty, slightly suspicious tone. "That's a little steep."
Petunia shrugged. "Not my rules."
Xenon sighed, obviously pondering his options. "Fine. The invitation's on the table with the socks. Take one if you wish. You can never have too many socks. Unless you don't like socks. Then you don't need them."
"Ok." Petunia said it more to herself than to him, heading for the invitation before Xenon changed his mind or started singing or something. "The money?"
"Chauncey will show you." Xenon said it like she knew who Chauncey was. "The tiny bear." He added with annoyance after a moment.
Petunia looked down to find Chauncey rolling around on his back, like her family's Mabari. "He looks like a Chauncey." She said as a way of filling the silence.
"I didn't name him; it is his name." Xenon said flatly. "Get the courier her gold, Chauncey." He stated in a polite tone.
The bear got up and trotted away, looking a little annoyed with the proprietor of the odd little shop.
Petunia tucked the invitation into her bag, grateful to be leaving, when Xenon spoke again.
"Wait! Before you go, I must give you your final instructions. Do you know the tune of the Ballad of Xerxeborei?"
Definitely cursed. "No, I don't. I can't sing worth anything."
Xenon snorted. "Figures. Well, it goes like this." He hummed a tune then, off-key and at an odd tempo. Petunia was horrified. She couldn't sing to begin with, let alone a ballad she'd never heard. "Just follow that tune as you state who sent the invitation. At sunset- only sunset. Stick to the trees until then. And whatever you do, don't mention that idiotic cult that resided there years ago."
Chauncey's laughing at me. I guarantee it. Petunia thought as she tried to look less horrified than she felt. "What cult- never mind. Anything else?"
Xenon seemed to ponder her words seriously for a moment. "Hmm… No, can't think of anything. Unless… Do you deliver to Antiva?"
She was beyond grateful to see the bear approach with a sack of gold then, never mind how the bear knew what 30 gold pieces looked like.
Most people would be grateful to be hired by Xenon the Antiquarian to run an errand; Petunia, however, was cursing her luck.
Part two goes up in 2016; just a short chapter to wrap it up. Being slightly sick right now, I couldn't really string together the ending for the moment, but I know the plot.
Reviews are lovely; I do apologize for any spelling errors.
Flamers will have to contact my secretary, who ignores even my phone calls, so good luck there.
Happy New Year's everyone! :) Enchantment!