I confess, I have not really searched, so I know not if there are any Leandra and Hawke bonding stories to be had. But here, my offering to honor that most stalwart of allies, bastion of faith and unwavering love: a Mother.
This oneshot's timeline serves as a book-end to Obsession is a Purpose; game timeline puts the beginning of this perhaps at three months before the end of Bitter Pill, and its ending two weeks before Hawke and the gang rejoin Ser Emeric's investigation against Gascard DuPuis. This story got away from me; I had planned only a short ficlet of no more than 1500 words, but alas, Leandra is more adamant than I had thought. I apologize for my clumsy punctuation and sentence structure again… this comes un-beta'ed.
A bit late for Mother's Day, but I had little free time in which to work on this, and then FFnet took a dump in the document uploads. 5/11/11 ETA: minor changes to the text, fixed some idiotic autocorrect mistakes. Sorry for the inconvenience.
This daughter of hers—the first born from a love that was both visceral and unworldly, knew more ways to vex her than a day had minutes. At once effervescent and indomitable, charming to a degree with her blunt manners and sincere blue eyes, Marian played the sun around which people spun in orbit, naturally drawn by the strength of her personality. Had Malcolm lived to this day, he would muse at the cosmic joke the Maker played on them all by spawning such a force into the body of their daughter.
Much to Leandra's dismay, Marian was vocal in her agreement. She often joked that were it not for the reflection in her washbasin and the enormous looking glass Leandra had hung in the parlor, she could almost visualize herself as a tall, graceless, lumbering oaf with a beard so thick a dwarf would faint from envy. Some weeks earlier, she even recounted a dream in which she saw herself as a large man with so little regard for his appearance that he perpetually sported a crusted smear of blood from one battle or another over his nose.
"That sounds terribly unsanitary, darling," Leandra had admonished, watching as her daughter crushed a few berries on her plate.
"Imagine how intimidating I could be, Mother!" Marian then quipped before painting a swatch of crimson across her face with berry-tinted fingers.
Leandra had nearly choked on her tea at the utter glee she saw in her daughter's eyes. Was it possible that her daughter truly felt that way? Did she really wish to be a man? That would explain the eagerness with which she'd shorn her beautiful hair right before leaving with Carver to fight the darkspawn at Ostagar. Was it also possible that maybe she found women more interesting than men? Maker save her, the very idea had scandalized Leandra so thoroughly, it made her ashamed of her narrow-minded reaction at the time. Vexing, vexing child!
And yet, an odd parade of smitten characters appeared sporadically at the front door asking after her daughter. A young, mustachioed Templar who delivered letters from Bethany always fidgeted nervously around Marian, blushed cheeks poorly hidden behind his russet-colored whiskers. An earnest-looking laborer with a heavy Ferelden accent sometimes came bearing a cloister of strange fruits he claimed her daughter was fond of. Soon, it was the quiet, pale healer shielding himself beneath layers of musty-smelling feathers, who often brought her as many offerings as he did for Marian— a never-ending supply of aromatic distillates and remedies in glittering glass vials along with a ubiquitous copy of his manifesto, written in angular, stilted script as sharp and unclear as his demeanor. Once or twice, she had even sat uncomfortably in the parlor, entertaining a dark-haired young man in fine brocades who rambled endlessly about society's lack of purpose… it puzzled her that he deflected every time she asked his name, saying he still had not been given the appropriate one.
Then there was that strange, moody fellow… Fennel? Felix? Fenrill?
Living in Lothering had long ago accustomed her to interacting with elves, but this one had all the charisma of a wounded Gulo1, despite the painstaking courteousness he exercised around her. He was an escaped slave, if memory served her correctly. It bothered her to wonder if his politeness was sincere, or if he felt obligated by some misguided sense of social order.
His visits were the most frequent and lengthy. He would often appear in the days between Marian's "jobs," whatever those were. Bodahn usually ushered him into the main hall and announced his name with great solemnity. The elf usually came bearing fresh flowers for her and a rectangular, flexible parcel bundled in sailcloth under his arm for Marian. Leandra would exchange terse pleasantries with him, thank him for the flowers and direct him into the study where Marian awaited.
On one occasion, shortly after renewing her attendance to regular Chantry services, she wandered into the study with the intention of retrieving her copy of the Chant of Light. There, she met with the most astonishing of scenes.
Marian and the strange elf sat side by side on the floor in front of the fireplace, neat sheaves of parchment lay arranged in front of them, weighed down by a half-empty inkwell. An unknown verse flowed with somewhat uniform cadence in the elf's rich baritone while Marian focused on his face, her lips subtly moving along with his words. Leandra stood rooted to the spot, completely bewildered by the image of this prickly, reticent creature industriously reciting lofty verses from the book in his hands. She was even more surprised by the sight of her daughter watching him with such rapt attention.
He came to a particularly troublesome word and deferred to Marian, who shifted closer to his side and helped him to sound it out. He pressed his finger to the page and repeated the word twice before continuing. Leandra stepped back and out into the hall, vaguely pleased by the wistful smile on Marian's lips and the natural ease with which she rested her chin on the elf's shoulder as he continued to haltingly read the next stanza.
Perhaps her pleasure stemmed from the certainty that if Marian had really been a sausage-fingered bearded oaf, she would lack the patience, finesse, and charm to manage the feat she had just witnessed: teaching the unassailable former slave to read. It absolutely, positively had nothing at all to do with the besotted look she recognized in her daughter's eyes.
For three days, Marian had vanished into the Free Marches with a small contingent of her friends.
"Slavers," she had told her by way of explanation as she hastened out the door.
Leandra had been in the Chantry for vespers on the evening of her daughter's return. Once at home, she was relieved to find Marian's travel pack tucked into a corner by the staircase, awaiting Bodhan's attention in the morning. Strangely, the heavy wooden door of her bedchamber, which normally remained ajar, was tightly shut. She stood by the threshold for a short while in a futile attempt to discern any sound.
What an odd memory that sparked… For a brief moment, she was a twenty-year-old girl with all her jewels and coin stuffed to burst into her purse and a small bundle of clothing in her hand, ear pressed against the heavy door of her parents' bedchamber, awaiting the right moment to make good her escape. The sturdy stone walls and oak doors of the Amell estate yielded no secrets. But as she made her way to her own suite, Leandra thought she heard the muffled clatter of metal against stone and faintly… a man's laughter?
The thought froze her in place, one foot across the doorway of her bedchamber. She held no illusions about Marian's innocence, but she felt disconcerted nonetheless. Years earlier, in Lothering, Carver had thundered into their cottage and seized his sister by the collar of her frock, demanding she deny some claims about her lost maidenly virtue. Her Marian, instead of protesting, had twisted her brother's arm into a painful lock before stomping out in search of the braggart— some farmhand named Fitch, to teach him a lesson on the virtue of discretion. Leandra's own dismay had gone unheeded when the audacious girl followed up with a rant about the inequality with which such things were dealt between males and females. Why had no one scorned Carver for rolling around with Danal's sister in the alley behind the bar?
"Maker, I hope she knows what she is doing," she whispered before shutting her door.
One broken-hearted daughter had been bad enough, though Bethany was nothing like her pragmatic, optimistic sister. Her younger daughter was possessed of the same delicate temperament and vulnerable romanticism Leandra had when she was young. The poor girl had followed in her mother's footsteps, fallen in love with an apostate who had shortly thereafter been apprehended by the Templars and made tranquil after his repeated attempts to escape.
Leandra doubted Marian would allow herself the vulnerability, having chased after her sister all the way to Kinloch Hold to prevent the foolish girl from surrendering herself to the Circle and suffering the same fate as her beloved. She had confessed to being terrified of the look of desolation in her sister's eyes.
Still, though a sun she was—with her constellation of followers and admirers of her adventures, lighthearted and blithe Marian dimmed in the following weeks, much to her mother's consternation.
It was Orana, the new arrival to the household, who first brought the change in Marian's behavior to Leandra's attention. The brittle-looking elf had approached her, hands wringing beneath her apron, looking to the entire world as if she were facing a hungry dragon.
"Please, Mistress Leandra," Orana spoke with a breathy, quivering voice that made Leandra's skin prickle with shame.
The elf shuffled nervously when Leandra paused in her task of rearranging the preserve jars in the pantry.
"You can call me Leandra, child," she corrected, hoping her tone conveyed kindness and not annoyance. "Is something the matter?"
The corners of Orana's large eyes glittered with the insinuation of tears. She clasped her hands up to her chest in a gesture that reminded Leandra too much of frightened supplication. Then, the floodgates opened and a litany of hitching pleas poured forth from the elf's trembling lips.
"Does my cooking displease Mistress Marian? I have tried many different dishes, and she has not eaten more than two bites of anything. Is there something she likes? I can learn to cook it as soon as possible, I promise I can!"
It was an unspoken agreement between them since Bethany had been taken to the Gallows; Marian made an effort to sit at the table with her at least once every day, to keep her mother company. At Orana's words, Leandra recalled every meal over the last two weeks that had gone virtually untouched by Marian. Night after night, it seemed, she pushed the food around her plate with little interest in eating any of it.
"There is nothing wrong with your cooking, Orana," Leandra reassured the servant. "Marian is just... Preoccupied."
Marian's mood had changed; her affable disposition withered somewhat. Discontent hung around her like a mailed garment. She became aloof, given to mild, silent tantrums when pressed for interaction. On the evenings, she paced the length of the library loft, eyes lost in the distance and some dark, indecipherable curse muttered intermittently at some enemy beyond the windows.
Leandra found herself missing the jokes about her daughter's masculine alter-ego. Seeing Marian struggle with some mysterious frustration was far more upsetting to her than considering the alternative. It seemed that for all her pragmatism and facetious tendencies, Marian was ill-equipped to deal with the intensity of more complex emotions. She had tried to run before she could walk.
Some days passed, and with them, Marian's fractured good humor began to slowly reform beneath a thin veneer. Though it came back in a more jaded, inappropriate quality, Leandra was grateful to see her daughter compose herself and leave behind the moroseness that possessed her so thoroughly.
Earlier that day, a messenger had arrived from the Viscount's keep, prompting Marian to don her sturdiest armor and pack a large number of those vials the healer was wont to deliver every week. Shortly after, Aveline and the white-haired elf, Fenris, showed up to discuss their business behind closed doors in the study.
After some minutes, the three of them filed out into the main hall. Leandra and Aveline exchanged a puzzled look when both Marian and the elf reacted almost violently to an accidental brush of their hands as they crossed the threshold to the vestibule. Leandra tilted her head in question, Aveline shrugged in response but the embarrassment in her clear green eyes belied her denial. Now, Leandra understood and her heart dropped to the pit of her stomach.
Marian didn't do things halfway and the mess she'd chosen to entangle herself in was indeed a hopeless cause... Her poor, bullheaded, foolish daughter.
They stood in the newly cleaned bath chamber, where Leandra had spent a considerable number of hours toiling away with Sandal and Orana's help, removing the mildew and grime from the fragile marble basins and tiled floors. Now, she could offer her daughter a small comfort after the day of grueling exertion she had surely endured.
Marian had just returned from finding the Qunari delegation being offered as sacrifice to that fanatic Petrice's cause. Leandra had listened to her bitter recount of the useless waste of life the entire ordeal had caused. As she spoke, Leandra had peeled away each layer of Marian's armor and set it aside, nodding and quietly agreeing with her daughter's opinions.
"What a strange concoction, Mother." Marian said and regarded the gently steaming white liquid in the sunken basin at her feet.
"It's a milk bath, darling," Leandra explained. "There are few luxuries more beneficial after a trying day, I assure you."
"It smells funny, like maybe I should be eating it with a spoon instead of soaking in it," Marian quipped, giving the liquid in the basin a skeptical look.
"You might, but the soap in it would prove rather distasteful and unhealthy," Leandra chuckled, gently pushing Marian towards the basin steps.
Her daughter complied and stepped into the steaming bath, wincing slightly as she sank to her haunches. The heat of the milk bath brought a rush of healthy color to her cheeks, and after a minute or two, Marian completely relaxed against the edge of the basin.
Leandra passed her a rough washcloth and gathered the nearby bucket of clear, warm water. For the next few minutes, both women worked at their tasks in comfortable silence. Marian scrubbed at her skin in slow, deliberate movements while her mother scooped clear water onto her head, then lathered her short dark hair with a sweet smelling substance. Her strong, lithe fingers pressed into the tight muscles of her daughter's neck and rubbed circles up her scalp and back down.
"You have not done this since I was a child," Marian spoke after a while. Her voice was wistful and quiet as if she were about to fall asleep.
Leandra felt a small smile tug at her lips. "That is because you are far too independent to allow me the honor, my daughter."
"I repent, my dear mother," Marian laughed a short rueful chuckle, "I should think that even if I were a fearless, roguish man with a beard, I would gain infinite benefit from my mother's tenderness."
From her vantage point at her side, Leandra could see the sadness in her expression. Marian's eyes glittered with unshed tears. By then, the milky water was tinged a pinkish hue, Leandra didn't want to consider whose blood— Marian's, the Qunari's, or the fanatics', they were washing off. She rinsed the soap from her daughter's hair and cupped her hand under her chin to gently turn her face toward her.
"Dear child, everyone needs a mother's touch once in a while," she smiled and squeezed gently, making Marian's lips pucker like a fish. "And even an unrepentant roguish Hawke tomboy's spirits will be lifted if she smells clean and pleasant, like a proper Amell lady."
"Far more appealing than a bloody smear on my face, Mother?" The laughter in her voice was gratifying. Leandra couldn't help echoing its mirth.
"It depends. Do you expect to submit your elf by fear, or by charm?"
"I expect it to be more interesting to confound him into despair with all my contrary behaviors," Marian bit her lip and rested her head against her mother's hand. "Perhaps, he will be compelled to stay even if just for the challenge of the puzzle."
"Darling," Leandra leaned forward and planted a kiss on Marian's temple. "It was the puzzle that brought him to your door. It is something else that keeps him by your side."
"And yet out of reach." Marian wrung the washcloth tightly between her hands.
"You don't see what I see, my dear girl." Leandra poured the rest of the warm water over Marian's head, brushing the stray rivulets (and maybe some tears) away from her eyes.
"And what does my clever mother see?"
"I see a man afraid of what he can be," Leandra reached for a small vial on the floor. "I see a man who thinks he is protecting what he loves."
"By causing me pain?" Marian scoffed.
"And himself," Leandra felt it necessary to point out. "He may think it's the lesser of two evils."
"He can't decide that for me, Mother."
Leandra nodded thoughtfully, rubbing a small amount of scented oil between her hands. She worked over her daughter's tense shoulders and arms
"Sometimes I think I hate him," Marian confessed after a brief silence.
"Perhaps sometimes you do..." Leandra replied. "It wouldn't be love, otherwise."
1. Gulo gulo: the scientific name for a wolverine.