Chapter 51

Fenris paused in pounding in the fence stake to watch Gavin as he chopped firewood. The last couple of weeks working on fixing up the old farmstead had done wonders for the mage's physical condition. Fenris felt lust stirring in him as he watched muscles rippling under skin kissed by the sun.

They had left Amaranthine in the company of a couple of merchants headed to the Bannorn. The land had been relatively quiet, and they really didn't need the added protection of the merchants guards, but they needed to keep up appearances. Gavin couldn't very well go around blasting everything and expect the Chantry to take no notice. After parting ways with the merchants, they had made great time in reaching Lothering. The once booming tradepost was still only a shadow of its former self. A blacksmith, a small farmers market and suprisingly, a Collective post were the only major establishments.

It turned out that the mages had come up with a way to heal the land faster through magic. However, the process was draining to the mage and thus was only done for those who paid for the privilege. Fortunately, money was not a problem and they had soon gotten the Hawke farm purged of any remaining blight corruption. When not curing the land, the mage stationed in Lothering provided herbal rememdies and healing spells to those who needed it. Payment depended on the amount required and the circumstances of the one needing the service. More often than not, the mage received some sort of food product as payment. To say he was happy that Gavin could pay him in gold was an understatement.

"You're staring again," Jethann snickered as he came up to his fellow elf. He looked at Gavin, "Of course, I can't blame you. The view is stunning."

Gavin glanced over his shoulder, as if he heard them. "That fence won't build itself." He chuckled as Fenris flushed and hastily went back to work. He looked towards the direction of the path from Lothering before returning to chopping firewood.

Varric was supposed to take the next ship out of Kirkwall to Ferelden. That ship was one heading to Denerim and was supposed to leave three days after their own. Varric was not only bringing things they couldn't take with them initially, but also his beloved hound Fang. It had killed him to leave the dog behind, but there'd been no room on the ship. They should have been waiting for them in Lothering.

"Don't worry master, they'll be here," Orana said softly as she brought him some water, intuiting what was on his mind. She had quickly gotten comfortable in the role of woman of the house. She made sure the meals were on time, the laundry washed properly, and the house cleaned thoroughly. "They were probably delayed by the tide or something like that."

"I know, and thank you," Gavin said as he finished drinking. He nodded and went back to chopping the large tree trunk into smaller logs for the fire.

She nodded and turned to bring water to Fenris and Jethann. It had come as a surprise to all of them to find the main building was still standing. Doors and windows needed replacing and it needed a very thorough cleaning, but othewise was fine. It appeared that the darkspawn had pretty much just passed over the place. However, that was more than enough to poison all the land they stepped on. Despite the healing the mage had done, it would be next spring before the fields could truly be worked. Jethann worked side by side with Master Hawke on caring for the soil of the fields.

"Thank you darling," Jethann winked at her as he took the water she offered, causing her to blush.

"Thank you for the fresh rabbit Fenris, it will make a fine stew for tonight," she said shyly.

"You don't need to thank me," the elf shook his head. "I have great skill as a hunter, you are a good cook. Gavin and Jethann are good with plants and things. We each contribute something of value."

"So tell me," Jethann looked at Fenris, a wicked twinkle in his eye. "Does it feel awkward having sex in what used to be Gavin's parents bed?"

"Jethann!" Orana slapped him in the chest. "That's none of your business."

Fenris smiled at their antics. "He only says these things to get a rise out of you. Don't give him the satisfaction and he'll stop."

"Hey, this farm won't take care of itself you know," Gavin had walked over to them and stood with his hands on his hips. Orana would have been scared if not for the fact that she could see he was having a hard time to keep from smiling.

"I guess that means he wants us to get back to work," Jethann stated the obvious.

"Actually, it is time for lunch," Orana pointed out. "I will go prepare a light meal while you three wash up." She saw them look at her in puzzlement. "I just spent the morning cleaning the furniture. I don't want you getting dirt and sweat all over them," she sniffed before turning and heading back inside.

"She's coming out of her shell more with each passing day," Fenris noted.

"It's because she has been entrusted with a great responsibility," Gavin told them. "I certainly am no great shakes at cleaning."

"Denarius had dozens of servants to perform such tasks," Fenris stated flatly. "He felt such things were a waste of my time. I was more useful to him in other ways," he finished with a sneer.

"While working at the Blooming Rose, the only thing I was responsible for cleaning was my own room," Jethann chuckled. "I wouldn't have a clue how to go about cleaing a whole house."

"It's not that big," Gavin rolled his eyes. The main room which served as living and eating area, was the biggest. There was one decent sized bedroom which he and Fenris occupied. But, the other two bedrooms had been quite small. The one he had shared with Carver had just enough room for a couple of cot sized beds and a dresser. It was now being used by Jethann and Orana. They'd actually had to build a bed to fit the room for the two elves to use. The bedroom Bethany had used was even smaller and so he had decided to convert it to a pantry.

"The place is still more than what most elves living amongst humans have," Jethann pointed out.

"Okay, we still have a lot of work to do, so let's go eat and then get back to it before the sun sets," Gavin ordered.

"Yes master," Jethann mock bowed before running off to the house.

"I admit, he's fun to have around," Fenris fell in beside Gavin as they walked back.

"Especially now that he's involved with Orana and not likely to try crawling into my bed," Gavin snickered.

"I haven't thought that in a long time," the tattoed elf protested.

"I'm kidding Fenris," Gavin reassured him. "Guess we have to work on your sense of humor."

"I saw you looking towards the trail," Fenris changed the subject. "You're worried that something's happened to Varric aren't you?"

"Well, we did sneak away from the city like a bunch of thieves," the mage shrugged and stopped outside the house. He turned to look seriously at Fenris. "What if Varric has been detained or something like that?"

"Then Bodahn would have sent a letter stating such," Fenris soothed. "The most likely explanation is that either the ship was delayed or he had to arrange passage on a different one. Don't borrow trouble Hawke."

"You're right, of course," Gavin sighed. "I just really miss Fang."

"He'll be here soon enough," Fenris stated. "Now, let's go eat."

They washed quickly at the well and then went in to a delicious lunch of meat, cheese, and bread. On the ship to Amaranthine, Orana had explained how she'd been trained by her father in how to make bread and cheese from scratch and how to cure game and other meats. So, they purchased several sacks of flour and slat and a couple of cows in the city. There were no chickens to be had, either in Amaranthine or Lothering, so Gavin had decided that once they were settled he would go up to Denerim to look in the markets there. For meat, there was plenty of wild game around for Fenris and him to hunt and trap.

They all agreed that life was looking very promising. Gavin only hoped that the world would just leave him alone to live the way he wanted to. Danarius was still out there somewhere, and it was possible that he would find them even in this remote corner of Ferelden. That thought made him realize that he should discuss with Fenris ways of warding the farm so as not to be taken by surprise. The collective mage in Lothering would no doubt have some good ideas. Even if he didn't, he could still put them in touch with a mage who did. He said nothing of this aloud for he didn't want to frighten Orana or Jethann. What they didn't know wouldn't hurt them.

"I was wondering what the likelihood was of my having my own place some day," Jethann broke into his thoughts. "There doesn't seem to be all that many people here. At least, not as many as I'm guessing there were before the blight."

"I'll talk to the people in Lothering, put forth feelers about purchasing additional land," Gavin told him. "But, I want to wait until we've been here for a while so they can get to know us better. I don't want them to think I'm some kind of greedy land baron or something."

"Also, his being a mage is risky for all of us," Fenris pointed out. "If the people here become our friends, then we'll have less to worry about from the Chantry."

"But, you could join the Collective and then you wouldn't have to worry about the Chantry," Orana seemed to think this was the answer to the problem.

"That's true, but then I would have to be available to help them when they need me to," Gavin scowled. "I left Kirkwall because I was tired of always being asked to help out. I just want to farm my land and live out my days with Fenris at my side. Nothing more."

"From what I could see of the land around here, I would say it will be some time before there's any significant number of people living here," Fenris mused. "The main catalyst for population growth is trade and right now there isn't a great deal of trading along the roads."

"All the reports we got in Kirkwall about the blight seemed to indicate that the worst of it was confined to the southern areas of Ferelden," Gavin nodded.

"And considering how involved and expensive treating the land is, I would say it will take some years before this area of Ferelden recovers fully," Jethann pointed out. "Which means that even if it takes a couple of years, I should still have plenty of land to choose from."

"We'll just have to take things one day at a time," Gavin said as he got to his feet, "The afternoon is waning away and we really do have a lot left to do." He turned to Orana, "That was delicious. I can't wait for dinner."

She nodded her thanks, her cheeks flushing at the compliment. "I'll have a hearty stew ready for you once the sun is down."

The three men turned and headed out leaving her to clean up. She remained sitting, still trying to grasp the fact that her master seemed to feel that Jethann and herself could be land holders. In the Imperium, all elves were slaves and so owned nothing. Even in other parts of Ferelden, the number of elves that actually owned anything were few and far between. It was an idea she'd never entertained and so seemed a tad unrealistic. But, what if it were possible?

"Dear papa, if only you could see me now," she whispered. "I hope you and mama have found peace at the Maker's side. And I hope you would be proud of the choices I have made." Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but she could have sworn she felt a touch on her cheek. Smiling, she got up and got to work.