Not Against Religion
A/N: Yes, I am very sorry for this, but it had to be done.
They call it impiety,
And lack of propriety,
And quite a variety
Of unpleasant names.
But it's not against any religion
To want to dispose of a pigeon.
Tom Lehrer, Poisoning Pigeons
Denerim was still barely awake, reeling from the double whammy of a darkspawn invasion and a royal coronation-plus-victory-celebration. The streets very virtually empty, doors shut, windows boarded, shops closed, in sharp contrast to the night before, when…well, when they were not. It seemed the entire city was struggling with a massive hangover.
The King Calenhad Memorial Park sat amidst the royal quarter's many noble houses and official buildings, complete with an oak grove, a memorial arch, a duck pond, and, of course, a wide expanse of green lawn, now a bit worse for wear after an army of underground creatures stomped through it. Nevertheless, the Guild of Gardeners have been hard at work earlier in the week to restore it for the momentous occasion of another Theirin boy taking the throne: they fixed the holes, raked the gravel paths, planted fresh flowers along the edges and, of course, hauled away the dead bodies. It almost looked like it did before. Even the ducks were back in the pond, along with some geese and, for some reason, a bewildered flamingo who wasn't exactly sure how it got there (truth to tell, it was the result of a mage apprentice's unfortunate experiment with a Transformation spell after consuming way too much alcohol during the coronation festivities). It was very pink, and slightly out of place amidst its quacking neighbors, who were probably convinced it was a spy from Orlais.
The early morning quiet and the ducks' pre-breakfast swim briefing were both literally shaken apart as the earth trembled.
THUD. THUD. THUDTHUDTHUD.
The lead mallard tilted its head, mad black eyes glistening curiously.
"Come on, pick it up." The sound was like several large rocks rubbed together, provided those rocks were smoking several dozen pipes a day, and drank dwarven ale and hard spirits by the barrelful. For decades. "The Qunari is way too slow."
"You didn't have to eat an entire cake last night." The other voice was deep and stoic, although colored by a faint sense of sickness. "With frosting that was laced with this thing called 'rum'." A pause. "Can't you walk a bit quieter, kadan?"
"I am a golem." The two turned the corner on the path leading by the pond: the ducks stared. "Quiet is not amongst my main characteristics. If it's quiet walking he wants, the qunari should hang out with the painted elf. He's an assassin, after all."
"You don't expect me to actually consider that, do you?" Although seven feet tall himself, the bronze-skinned giant was dwarfed by his companion. "This is madness. What are we doing here?"
"A mission of charity." The golem was nine feet of cracked and chipped stone, with eyes like molten steel. 'Charity' wasn't exactly a word one would have expected it to utter. "There was something I've noticed in this area earlier."
"Danger?" Sten, the qunari warrior, one of the Hero of Ferelden's companions drew his blade. The ducks were experienced in this already: they scattered, drawing towards the middle of the pond. Somehow they suspected there won't be any breadcrumbs from these two, just like there wasn't anything from the darkspawn in the preceding weeks. In fact, those tried to eat them: an indignity these ducks never had to endure before.
"Depends on to whom?" Shale, the golem narrowed her eyes, surveying the park's lawn. "I guess this is just as good a place as any." She loosened the drawstrings on the large sack she was carrying. "In fact, it's almost perfect."
"Kadan?" Sten's eyes narrowed as he replaced his sword, keeping his hand on the handle warily. The ducks stared, paddled a bit closer back. "What's that?"
"Oh." If a golem could act sheepish, this was it. Shale shuffled her feet. "Just… something I worked on last night while everyone else was…celebrating."
"I thought I saw you disappearing towards the kitchens." Sten looked suspicious. "What's on your mind?"
Shale was humming. Her entire stone body was vibrating as she reached into the sack, drew her hand out in a wide arc, scattering glistening corn and wheat seeds across the green lawn. If Sten was listening close enough, he could almost make out the words:
Spring is here, a-suh-puh-ring is here.
Life is skittles and life is beer.
I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring.
I do, don't you? 'course you do.
"Is that a dwarven song?" Sten remembered that Shale used to be a dwarf before she volunteered for golem duty for eternity. "Kadan? Are you listening to me at all?"
"Of course." There was something deeply amused in the golem's voice, something light and almost…happy. Sten of the Beresaad didn't get shocked too easily, but this came pretty close to knock him off his feet. Especially when he had to duck one of Shale's swinging arms as she kept scattering…birdseed?
"Vashedan." Sten muttered. His head hurt from last night's excesses. This rum thing really wasn't something sane people should consume, and combined with the sweet stuff it made his morning rather miserable. The ducks' quacking didn't help either. "Will you speak plainly at last? What are we doing here?"
"The qunari insisted on following me." Shale's eyes were glistening with glee. "I am merely…taking a stroll and enjoying the early morning air in a… park, that's the word. I was told this… park has the largest number of birds in Denerim. Old ladies used to come here to feed them before the darkspawn invaded. Daily, in fact. " She pointed. "They used to sit on those benches, and the…birds would come up to their feet and eat everything. Breadcrumbs, seeds, corn… sometimes entire lunches. One of the palace guards even saw some eating leftover chicken. "Sten shuddered in disgust, and the golem nodded sagely. "Yes, indeed. The guard said that was one of the most disturbing things he'd seen in his life: a…pigeon gleefully nipping at a half-eaten chicken leg."
"That's..." Sten paused, considered. "Unnatural."
Shale shrugged her massive shoulders.
"So… can the Qunari tell me if the Qun would have no objections against… correcting this?"
"Maraas shokra." Sten quoted the Qun, dipping his head in reverence. "There is nothing to struggle against. These birds clearly try to disturb the tide of things by eating… other birds."
"See?" Shale's voice was triumphant. "So it's a good thing I…ehm…appropriated some of the painted elf's… more noxious substances he usually dripped on his blades, while he was at the celebrations and soaked these seeds in them?" She scattered the last of the sack's contents and dusted her giant hands. "I think it's just seconds now…ah!"
The sound of dozens of wings shattered the almost eerie quiet around them. The ducks paused in their way to investigate, right at the edge of the water, and stared in disgust at the hordes of pigeons descending on the birdseed all over the lawn.
"It's… beautiful." Shale's voice was soft as she took a couple of steps backwards very, very carefully, and opened her arms. "But there's one thing that makes spring complete for me, And makes ev'ry Sunday a treat for meeee…"
Sten of the Beresaad thought he'd seen everything already. He, after all, was sent on a dangerous intelligence-gathering mission to a foreign land, lost his sword and his honor, was imprisoned and released, followed a crazy female around Ferelden who claimed she was intent on stopping the Blight, witnessed the incredible efforts of pulling an entire army together from nothing, saw ruined temples, abominations, demons, mages who had their tongues intact and weren't chained, werewolves, walking dead, crazed cultists, several dragons, more darkspawn than he could really count, and one very thoroughly pissed Archdemon… but nothing, nothing he witnessed on this mission could prepare him for this—a gray stone statue, nine feet tall, with eyes of molten steel and the grace of a very small and round dwarven woman whirling across the lawn of the King Calenhad Memorial Park, singing and cackling as all around her pigeons pecked at poison-laced seeds, took to the air, and fell down dead.