Written for the People of Thedas "Sugar & Spice" event. Thanks forever and always to Mutive for beta reading.
The poem at the beginning is quoted roughly from Lorca's "Gacela of Unexpected Love"
Finn reached for one book after another, trying to find the shining bit of knowledge that would steady his nerves. Irving had been particularly friendly lately, and he didn't like what that portended; they were probably going to Harrow him soon.
Kinnon had passed, sure, and so had Anders, and really if Anders could survive it mustn't be that hard. But then Neria had disappeared right after her Harrowing, and Jowan had just plain disappeared, and Finn thought he really didn't want to be Harrowed. He didn't want to be Tranquil either. He just wanted to sit in his library and read books and practice harmless little spells that never threatened to tear holes in the Veil, thank you very much. He didn't see why he had to change.
Finn sighed. The Templars had done a very thorough job of hiding any useful information on the ritual, so he settled for his favorite collection of Tevinter poetry. The flowery sonnets were both obscure and calming, but they had nothing to do with magic. Likely the person who had gifted it to the Tower did not understand ancient Arcanum.
"Nai sapie marche amorlud lusciniad inter deil dentis." The cheerful voice startled him out of his reverie, and the book slipped out of his hand and fell to the ground.
Finn clutched at his heart. Then he turned and, looking down, came face to face with the curviest elf he had ever seen. Then he noticed her ears were not pointed and he thought she might be... a child? A very, very well developed child. He pulled his eyes back up to her face and squinted.
She seemed to sense his confusion. "I'm a dwarf," she explained.
"Bless you!" he said, before realizing that she hadn't sneezed but actually told him her species. She laughed, and his face colored. "Sorry, I've never met a dwarf before," he mumbled. He thought dwarves were supposed to be muscular and surly with hair everywhere, and not pretty girls with freckles and pigtails. He retrieved his book from the floor, checking the delicate leather for damage, and looked at her curiously. "You can read this?"
"No. I just like the way it sounds. I didn't think anyone could read it. I tried to ask the elf with the fuzzy cape, but she told me—" The dwarf stopped short, and then she giggled and extended a small hand. "I'm sorry, where are my manners? My name is Dagna, pleased to meet you."
"Finn." He shook her hand and felt a strange numbness, like casting lightning into a rubber ball. He frowned. "I'm sorry but... why are you here? Dwarves can't do magic."
"Nope, I can't, but I'm not about to let a thing like that stop me." Dagna smiled brightly and hugged her arms around her chest. "I just love everything about magic. How it's powered by dreams, and it can do so many different things. Good things, and evil things, and beautiful things, and completely crazy things." She sighed wistfully. "Even if I can't ever do it myself, I've always wanted to learn about it."
Finn stared at her and time stood still. People always told him he was crazy when he told them that he wanted to learn about things with absolutely no practical application. Arcanum is for dead people, Finn, why don't you learn Orlesian? OrDon't bother studying Eluvians, they've all been destroyed. Finn had thought he was alone. Suddenly his tiny universe expanded to include one other person, and he felt his heart skip a beat.
"What's wrong? Do I have something in my teeth?" Dagna covered her mouth with her hand and glanced off to the side. "Stupid surfacer vegetables..."
"No, I was just thinking..." Dagna looked up at him, and Finn swallowed the lump in his throat. He said, "You don't know you crush love's nightingale between your teeth."
That must have sounded peculiar, he realized too late. Finn winced when her brows shot up and she looked at him sideways. "Huh?"
"The poem you quoted before. That's what it means." He held his book a little tighter. "Tevinters love to mix metaphor. There really isn't anything between your teeth. Certainly not a nightingale of love." He laughed nervously. "And of course I don't mean you, personally. Just the poetic you."
"Oh," Dagna said. She tilted her head to the side.
And then Irving chose that moment, of all times, to show up and tap him on the shoulder. Finn turned and his heart sank. Behind him, Greagoir was fixing him with his signature stoic glare, and Finn was pretty sure he knew what that meant.
"We're ready for you upstairs," the First Enchanter said, rather ominously, and Finn felt his blood go cold.
Great.Just his luck, he was probably going to die in the Harrowing Chamber, and Dagna would go to his funeral and think, oh that's so sad, the ninny who told me I had a bird in my mouth is dead.
"This way!" The imaginary girl with the ribbons in her hair ran on ahead of him through the misty roads of the Fade, her skirt bouncing with every step. This was simpler than he'd expected. Finn stayed where he stood, crossing his arms over his chest, and wondered when the demon would show itself.
The dream-girl looked back at him. "We have to hurry if we want to catch the desire demon and fight our way out of here." Her blue eyes went glossy. "Don't you want to help me?"
Finn sighed heavily. "You might as well drop this charade," he said. "I can tell you're a demon. Probably pride, from the looks of your rather gaudy pinafore."
The girl stopped and stared at him. After a moment she shrugged, and her outline shimmered purple and then shattered, and all at once she was a Pride demon, standing seven feet tall, with a hooked face and endless black holes in place of eyes.
"What gave me away?" the demon asked.
"How about everything?" Finn rolled his eyes. "I mean, really. Helpless girl in distress? It's the oldest trick in the book." He rested his elbow on his arm and twirled his hand. "Several books, actually, I first read it in—"
"Okay, I get it!" The pride demon shifted his weight on his cloven hooves, the plates of his skin making a strange clicking noise as he did. "I am impressed that you saw through my ruse, little mage. With your intelligence and my power we couldrule the wor—"
Finn shook his head. "Sorry... but these demon-mage arrangements never end well," he said, then reconsidered that statement. "Well, maybe once. But that was a special case, in the Steel age, which everyone knows was the period where the templars were the most fanatical, so it's never been entirely clear whether the mage in question was actually possessed by a demon or just allergic to bees..."
"I'm sorry, are you still talking?" The pride demon yawned, and it covered its mouth with a clawed hand. "Look, forget I said anything. I'm sure you're a nice guy, really, but to be honest I wouldn't be caught dead possessing a mage like you." He shot Finn a disparaging look and added, "Nerd."
With that the demon waved his hand, and the Fade unraveled around them. Finn woke up in the Harrowing chamber with a startled shout.
"Huh," Gregoir said, watching him with vague disinterest. "I guess he survived."
"You don't have to sound so surprised." Finn picked himself up off the floor. He'd expected to feel proud after passing his Harrowing, at least, but his experience with the demon had been somewhat unflattering. That, combined with his poor showing with the dwarf girl, made him wonder if his day could possibly get any worse.
Irving rested a hand on his shoulder. "You're father's waiting for you downstairs," he said.
Finn sighed. Apparently it could.
That was weird, Dagna thought, as she watched the apprentice leave with the two older men. But then it was possible she had misunderstood the situation, as she was still learning about humans and mages and all their strange customs. She really hoped she hadn't offended him. It would be nice to have a friend who knew his way around the library.
The next time she saw him he was wearing different clothes. Dagna bounced up to the table where he was sitting in the History section, pulled up a chair and sat down next to him. Finn stared at her; she pointed at his boots.
"I like your shoes," she said.
"Oh, those." He picked up his foot and looked at it, as though examining them for the first time. "My father gave them to me, for having the decency to survive my Harrowing." He held out his hands. "Gloves too. There may have been a sale involved."
Dagna looked at his gloves and she felt a twist in her gut. She pulled back and her face fell.
"Maker are they that bad?" Finn looked at his hands and frowned. "The fox fur is a little tacky, I admit, but I thought the dragonskin was pretty swank."
"No, they're very nice." Dagna looked down at her own shoes, boots her father had made for her many years ago. She remembered how he'd worked the leather, teaching her to bind the seams. "I was just thinking that I'd really like some gloves to match. I wish my father would send me some." Dagna sighed. "Or anything, really. We didn't part on the best terms."
"Oh. I'm sorry. Most of us don't get on with our fathers either." He looked up at the ceiling. "Of course that's because one time we maybe accidentally set them on fire. Before we had control of our magic and we really wish they would let it go." He coughed. "But I'm sure you didn't do that." The he sat back, a little perturbed. "I mean... you didn't, did you?"
Dagna laughed. "No, but I did give up my caste to come here," she explained. "If I went back to Orzammar my father wouldn't even speak to me. I'd have to wear a brand." Finn was giving her such a pitying look that she began to feel a little silly. "Oh, don't feel bad," she said quickly. "I'm not trapped like you guys. I can go out. I can go anywhere I want." After a pause she added, "And I want to be here."
She shook her head and let herself smile again. "Thanks for listening to me," she said. "I know I can go on sometimes."
"You? That was nothing." He chuckled. "I once explained the entire history of enchanted headgear to Wynne before I realized that she was asleep."
Dagna laughed again. "You're funny," she said, looking at him. The other mages all ignored her, and the templars ignored everybody, as far as she could tell. It was nice to have someone to talk to, she decided, and she smiled broadly. "Hey, would you be interested in teaching me Arcanum?"
The dwarf was very confusing. One minute she was wan and nostalgic and the next she was all bubbles and sunshine and hey let's hang out! She made him feel strange and disoriented and then she ambushed him with that smile, and he would have agreed to anything she'd asked.
And so Finn agreed to teach her Arcanum.
"The agreement is in the suffixes," he said. She nodded. "Say you start with the verb besoi, which is 'to kiss.' You can say ei beso, which is 'I kiss' or dei bese which is 'you kiss' but then you can also say beseve which is the command form, so then if you say beseve eiud it means, um." He swallowed. "Kiss me."
He paused, and after a moment she said, "Because -ud turns ei into an object."
"Yes, exactly." After a few lessons it have become clear that she was much smarter than most of the enchanters, despite being very short. He smiled nervously. "Am I boring you?"
Dagna shook her head, her pigtails bouncing as she made a note of the conjugation in her journal. Then she looked up at him. "How do you turn it into an question?"
"Oh, same as in King's. With an interrogative." He ran over the list on his fingers. "Quis, quid, quo, quen, and qur, with suffix ne."
She smiled. "Quenne bese eiud?"
Finn looked down his shirt sleeve and smoothed it with his hands. "Almost," he said, and he bit his lip. "But you need to make it future tense."
Dagna put down her pencil. "So how come you know so much about a dead language?"
"It's the only way to learn about Tevinter artifacts. They're a fascination of mine." She folded her hands in her lap and he looked up. "Take the Eluvians." His voice grew rapturous. "They were these huge magical mirrors, but you couldn't see yourself in them. Nobody's really sure what you could see, actually, but I think you could see possibilities, or the future, or the past, and then if you walked through it..." He spread his hands. "I guess you were there."
Dagna watched him with her mouth half open, and she blinked. She had the longest eyelashes he had ever seen. "But where did they go?" she asked.
Her lips didn't quite close at the end of the question, and Finn found himself staring at her mouth. He wondered if she was interested in him. She'd been meeting him regularly for the past few weeks, ostensibly for lessons, but they were always alone and she smiled at him and laughed at his jokes. He thought it was possible she liked him.
If that was the case he thought he should kiss her. That was how these stories went, he thought. A boy met a girl, and they liked each other, and then they kissed. Of course he had never read any stories where that girl was a dwarf. He tried to picture a dwarf and a human kissing, or holding hands, or getting married in a Chantry in the country, and then he started thinking about how strange the children of a dwarf and a human might look and he got a little lost.
It would be even worse if he kissed her and she didn't like him, because then she might slap him, and that would hurt, and then all the other mages would be talking about it, and they would laugh and point and call him a weird dwarf fetishist. And then even if she wanted him to kiss her the actual experience might be disappointing. He'd never actually kissed a girl before, and he'd had onions with his lunch and his lips were a little chapped. And there was still the height difference to consider.
After a dizzying eternity he shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "I haven't found the answer in any of my books. Maybe if I went to Tevinter... but I don't really leave the Tower." He wrapped his arms around himself. "Honestly if I make it past the second floor, it's a journey of epic proportions."
"Oh." Dagna sat back in her chair and exhaled, and he thought she looked a little sad. After a moment she said, "So how do I say something's mine? My book, my chair, my crunchy nightingale of love?"
She smiled again, and Finn relaxed a little. He knew the answer to that one. "With an L," he said, and he tried not to think about kissing her.
They had moved on to adjectives, and Dagna listened attentively. She wondered if he was courting her. They'd been meeting like this for weeks, ostensibly for lessons, but the conversation always wandered away from the subject and he liked to make her laugh. This might be how humans flirted.
Dagna listened as he pronounced the word "Tardus," which meant slow. His father was wealthy, she thought, but in the end he was only surface caste, like her, so it might be an appropriate match. "Celerus," he said, for fast. His tongue rolled expertly over the R, and she thought she might like to be wooed. "Suavis," meant sweet, he told her, and she nodded. He had a very nice voice, she thought. Her eyes drifted down to his mouth.
If he was a dwarf he would have kissed her by now. Of course, if he were a dwarf he would have started the courtship with an official gift of gems or crystals, and he would have consulted with her father and lodged a statement of intent with the Shaperate. But her father was not available and Orzammar was hundreds of miles away, and meanwhile Finn was human.
He was also a mage.
She smiled at him. "Can you show me the spell wisp again?"
"Um." His cheeks colored. "It really has nothing to do with adjectives..."
"You could describe it to me? With adjectives!" She grinned, and he gave her a skeptical look before he obligingly lifted his hands. The wisp spun out from between his fingers and hovered in the space between them.
Dagna reached out and it jumped under her fingers, like a butterfly. She let out a delighted laugh. She would never get tired of watching magic play around her, or feeling new spells charge the air, and she wondered how anyone could be sad in the Tower. He regarded her curiously, and she felt her cheeks warm.
"It tingles," she said.
Finn looked a little crestfallen. "I don't know that word," he said.
"Hmm." She considered the wisp. "Well, it's pink. And pretty. And sparkly."
"Okay." He pursed his lips and looked up. "Roseus, bellas... and I have absolutely no idea."
Dagna laughed, and he laughed with her. She looked at him. He was sort of interesting, she thought. A little odd, perhaps, but he was human. She smiled and he bit his lip. The moment stretched out and neither of them moved. The wisp faded away, pulling the energy out of the room. After a while Dagna sighed.
Maybe he wasn't interested in her. Maybe he wasn't interested in girls at all; his robes were very tidy. It was possible she was being ridiculous. She leaned back in her chair and decided not to think about kissing him.
That morning when Finn went looking for Dagna in the library, she wasn't there. Dagna was always in the library. If she wasn't in the library he couldn't imagine where she might be.
Maybe she'd gotten tired of him. Some people did think he was a little boring. He sighed. Of course it was more likely that she was sleeping in, which meant that she wasn't tired of him. Well, except literally. Finn chuckled at his own joke. She'd probably been up late studying, he thought; she liked to study a lot. Except she hadn't been studying with him. Maybe she was studying with another mage who was less timid and didn't send so many mixed signals. He swallowed hard and looked around the library again.
"You're looking for Dagna aren't you?" Kinnon sidled up to him and punched him in the shoulder. "She isn't here."
Finn scowled and rubbed his arm. "Yes I can see that."
"So you were looking for her?" The other mage grinned devilishly. "Ha, I knew it. Flora's got a crush on the dwarf."
"How many times do I have to tell you it's Finn?" He hunched inwards. "Also... stop."
"Hey, I think it's great." Kinnon nodded approvingly. "Wait'll I tell Petra. She was convinced that you were—"
"Look, can we talk about something else?" Finn scratched his forehead with his thumb. "Have you heard about what's happening in Kirkwall?"
While he was busy not talking about Dagna with Kinnon, a curious thing happened. Another dwarf entered the library. He was broad and hard-eyed, and he wore an awful lot of armor. Finn watched him out of the corner of his eye and noticed he had a very thick beard. Did Dagna like beards? He could never grow a beard, they were scratchy and impossible to keep clean and Maker's Blood was that dwarf touching the Catalog of Elven Relics with his bare hands? That book was priceless!
And then everything happened very quickly. The dwarf was the Hero of Ferelden, apparently, but more importantly he knew where to find a real Eluvian, with all their magic and beauty and unknowable mysteries. Finn was swept away, and all of a sudden he was talking to Hadley and then he was walking out the door— he was walking out the door— and on a wild quest of his own.
He hoped someone would tell Dagna.
"Have you seen Finn?" Dagna asked, when she saw Kinnon in the library. She'd been feeling ill and had slept in. She hoped she hadn't missed him.
"Yeah, he just left with the Hero of Ferelden," Kinnon said. The mage thumbed through Spirit Healers through the Ages and chuckled at the pictures in the margins.
"He... left?" Dagna stared at him incredulously. "What do you mean? He went downstairs?"
"Well, at first, but then they left the Tower." Kinnon shrugged. "I think Hadley said they were going to the Deep Roads."
Kinnon returned to his book, and Dagna carefully closed her mouth. Finn, the mage who specialized in sitting in very safe places, was out in the world with Faren Brosca? Dagna remembered the Warden pretty well, both from her own experiences with him and from his legendary reputation. The Paragon was a dangerous man who did very dangerous things. She couldn't really picture the bookish mage she knew from the library off adventuring with one of Orzammar's most notorious dusters.
And yet apparently he was. Dagna readjusted her opinion of him, and her breath came a little quicker. Finn might be a little more interesting than she had thought.
Faren Brosca was a formidable warrior, all hard lines and tightly coiled muscle, and when he walked there was no bounce to his step. No one would ever call him adorable. And he was a man. Still, Faren was only the second dwarf that Finn had ever met, so it was hardly surprising that he reminded him of Dagna.
As they entered Cadash Thaig he wondered if it was anything like the place where she had grown up. He imagined taking her there, and sitting by the side of the underground stream and pointing up to the bridge and saying, Yes this is where I went with the Hero of Ferelden, isn't that neat?
At the end of everything they found themselves in front of a real working Eluvian. It's sparkling surface shone with possibilities. The dwarf met his witch there, and they spoke in soft tones so that Finn could not hear. Their heads bent and their foreheads touched, and Finn saw the flash of a silver ring on his finger. After a while, the Warden took her hand, and together they stepped through the Eluvian.
Beside him Ariane grunted. "I guess I'm not getting my book back."
Finn stared at the roiling surface of the mirror as it went dark. "I can't believe he just did that," he said, almost to himself. "There's no telling where that portal leads or what's on the other side. He can't have known where it would take him."
Ariane nodded. "He must have really loved her."
His brow furrowed as he considered the couple. "You don't think the height difference was awkward? I mean, she'd have to..." Ariane gave him a look that said she thought that was the dumbest thing she'd ever heard, and Finn coughed into his hand. "Right. Nevermind."
Finn stared at the Eluvian, and he knew he should have been puzzling its mysteries and studying its secret, but all he could really think about was what kind of courage it took to step through it.
As soon as Finn was back he made a beeline for the library. It was his favorite place in the Tower and all his favorite things were there. And the Warden had inspired him. He was going to take charge of the situation and step through his Eluvian. He was going to kiss Dagna.
"Hey," he said, when he saw her. He shoved his hands into his pockets.
Dagna looked up and it was like the sun rose over her face. "Finn!" she exclaimed, and she threw her arms around him. "I'm so glad you're back!"
Finn could hardly breathe. Dagna was hugging him. "Yep," he croaked out.
"Kinnon told me you went outside with Paragon Brosca," she said, and she released him. "He said you went on a quest. With a Dalish girl. And a giant dog." She eyed him curiously. "Where did you go?"
"Oh, it was no big deal." Finn rocked back on his heels and tried to look cool. "We went to Cadash Thaig, and the Dragonbone Wastes, and I got to see a real Eluvian. It turns out they reflect purple." Her eyes widened and he bit his lip. "I could tell you about it..."
Dagna smiled happily. "I'm just glad you're safe," she said. Then she bounced up onto her toes and suddenly her lips were on his cheek.
The kiss was purely friendly, but it lingered, and Finn thought he was going to faint. Her nose was just touching his cheekbone, her breath was warm on his skin, and after a moment of breathless suspense Finn realized that he hadn't fainted after all. He took a quick breath and turned his face just slightly, meeting her eyes. For a brief moment he panicked, wondering where their noses were meant to go, before he decided it would work itself out, and he kissed her square on the lips.
Her eyes flared open and then she melted against him. She was so much softer than he'd ever imagined. Her tongue touched his and he wished he'd stopped to brush his teeth. Then she let out a contented sigh and he really couldn't think about anything else.
Dagna pulled away and he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Wow," she said. "I'm really glad your back. Shoot, I already said that." She blushed furiously and started to giggle.
Finn smiled with self satisfaction. That had gone pretty well, he thought. He really should have done it ages ago.