“I don’t see what you’re fucking worried about, baba ,” groused Meryell as she tucked another folded tunic into her pack. “It’s just another job.”
Folke huffed in response and leaned back against the wall where he sat on her bed. There really wasn’t enough room for both of them to be in the little room down in the bowels of the keep. Shit, there was barely enough room for one to occupy the little space that was leftover from the few furnishing she had.
She turned to look at him from where she stood on the other side of the little room, her pack propped up on top of her bookshelf as she moved between it and her trunk. Frowning, Meryell cocked her head at him and he watched the tip of her ears twitch. “You’re worried ,” she said almost teasingly. “About me going on a job.”
“About you going to steal something from a place that’s crawling with templars ,” he replied, trying not to let his tone of voice go clipped and fierce.
“There are mages there too, baba .”
“ That does not reassure me.”
Sighing, she abandoned her packing and came over to the bed, crawling up to sit beside him. Folke let out a huff of breath and shifted to his left just enough that he could loop his arm over her shoulders. Using it to pull her close to his side, he turned his head towards her and rested his forehead against her temple.
“Forgive an old man for worrying about his little girl,” he muttered.
Meryell’s hand found his other then, drawing it across his lap so she could lace her fingers with his. Their joined hands rested between them now, sitting on top of where her thigh sat flush against his.
“Always, baba ,” she said warmly and he couldn’t help but smile.
He’d never imagined himself with children and had always done his damndest to make sure that he didn’t inadvertently father one on some unsuspecting lass. One never knew what latent magic lay within a bloodline and he wasn’t about to take the chance that his little skill might spark a sudden revival. Growing up the way he had had been tough enough, what with the periodic hiding from templars that he and his family had had to do. Then he’d left to see what the world had for a half-Chasind wild boy and he’d seen the children dragged away, watching as parents abandoned their flesh and blood without a tear or sunk to their knees in sorrow.
It had been enough to put fear in his heart. Especially since he’d already sworn to himself to never go back into hiding in the woods again.
Then he’d found the company and the blood he’d spilled during those first years, before Arnald had taken the vote for the Captaincy…he believed it had ruined him. How could a man who’d done as many terrible thing as he’d done excuse those things? How could he bear to hold an innocent child in his hands and know that somewhere back down the line he’d robbed a similar child of a mother or father?
And then… Meryell . Meryell had been unexpected and unwelcome. He’d started out just looking after her for the sake of having been the one to recruit her, as the Captain had declared recruiters were responsible for their recruits for the first year. It hadn’t ended after that first year though, not for either of them. The rest, as the saying went, was history.
Now he wouldn’t give her up for the world. Not even at the point of a sword.
“I mean,” she continued, dragging him out of his reverie, “what sort of trouble could I get into with templars this time? I won’t have you at my hip.”
Folke pulled back and arched his eyebrows at her, replying, “I seem to recall you being the one to attract the attention of the templars the last time we were out together. By throwing yourself out of a window onto two of them on the street below.”
“And then you threw a fireball at the shithead that I was trying to outrun when he came out the window after me,” pointed out Meryell.
He couldn’t argue with that. Admittedly, though, he hadn’t recognized that the two were templars because he hadn’t seen them from his vantage point in another window. He’d merely had a good angle on the fucker who’d been after her and he’d let loose.
“Fine,” he grumbled, tapping his fingers against her shoulder errantly. “Still, you should be careful. They’re going to no doubt be the security in the Temple and I doubt that simply explaining that you aren’t a mage will get you off the hook if you’re caught stealing.”
“Have I ever been caught stealing?” she asked with more than a hint of pride and he scowled, tugging her hand in his down to rap her knuckles lightly against his knee.
Folke frowned seriously at her as he pointed out, “Don’t invite trouble, ara vherain. That’s how you get yourself killed.”
She blinked at him and instantly lost her joking demeanor, saying softly, “You really are worried.” Then Meryell frowned and asked, “Bad feeling?”
It was a running joke amongst the company and had been since he’d joined up far too long ago. You watch out when Folkey says he’s got a bad feeling, enfants , the old second Noralt had used to say with a grin to the new recruits, clapping a hand on his shoulder. That means that the Maker’s put the nug amongst the wolves.
His mother had called it a gift of the gods. His father, sensible Fereldan man that he was, had called it a Wilds wyrding. From the old word for fate .
He didn’t always get it when something was going to go shit spit up the river. Noralt’s death hadn’t had any warning feelings and neither had Tobik’s five years past. Nor when that templar had caught him and Meryell and nearly did away with them both if not for his girl’s quick thinking.
Ever since Arnald had given her the job that had come in, though, his stomach had been in knots and there was an ache inside him in that peculiar place that wasn’t a place where his mana pooled.
“Bad feeling,” he replied weakly as he nodded.
“Bad enough to not go? Or send someone else?”
“No, no,” insisted Folke, shaking his head. “You are the best thief we’ve got, Poppet, so it’s you that needs to go. And jobs a job. This is just…” He shook his head and forced a smile at her. “It’s surely just worries.”
Meryell didn’t look entirely convinced – she’d been there when his feelings had paid off – so he hugged her shoulders and turned his head to kiss her temple. “Don’t let an old man’s worries make you start worrying before your time,” he muttered fondly.
She huffed a laugh and elbowed him lightly in the ribs as she replied, “You know I always worry about you when I’m gone, ha’ishan . Without me, you end up getting yourself fucking arrested.”
“I could say the same of you!”
“At least I have gotten out of most of my arrests on my own.”
“ Most ,” pressed Folke with a smile and earned another elbow in the ribs for it. He then patted her shoulder and said, “You need to finish getting packed. It’s a bit of a trip to get to the Frostbacks.”
Smirking at him, she asked, “Are you going to remind me to take a cloak too, baba ?”
“No,” he replied with a light swat to her arm, “I expect my own damned child to know better than to go to somewhere called the Frostbacks without a fucking cloak.” That made her laugh and she turned to kiss his cheek, her lips carefully avoiding the puckered lines of his scar the way they always did.
“I’ll be fine,” Meryell said reassuringly before she scooted off the bed to head back to her packing. Folke just nodded in return and took his leave of the room, trying to ignore the ache inside that he couldn’t do a damned thing about.
Almost four weeks later the news came that the Conclave had been destroyed.
Folke stared at the Captain after he’d relayed the news to what of the company was in the keep, his head suddenly feeling like it was full of wool. He felt hands on his arms, on his shoulders, but they were irrelevant.
“Meryell,” he croaked, trying to have his voice heard over everyone else’s. He couldn’t hear himself, however, couldn’t know if he was whispering or shouting really. Though he did register everyone turning to look at him and sorrow on the Captain’s face where he stood above them all.
“Folke,” breathed Evune’s voice in his ear and she was suddenly in front of him, her arms around his chest. He stared at her for a long moment and ached because he wanted her features to be younger, to be a shade or two lighter in skin tone, for her eyes to be copper and green and not piercing blue. Wanted longer ears and haphazardly cut brown hair and the pleasant sound of a Ferelden accent washed with so many other influences and not the slight burr of Dalish tones. “Come.”
“No!” he exclaimed, reaching up to grab her upper arms in his, knowing instantly by the grimace on her face that he grabbed too hard. He tried to soften his grip but he couldn’t , not with his heart in a vice like it was. “Meryell…”
She just looked at him solemnly and said softly, “ Ar ame ir abelas, lethal’lin. ”
Folke shook his head at the words, refusing to believe it. “ Din ,” he whispered desperately. Deny it , he thought frantically. Please, please, deny it.
“ Vin, ” replied Evune, as resolute as a cliff wall.
“No,” repeated Folke, as if saying the denial would make it true. He could tell his voice was cracking from the scratchiness in his throat and could feel the grief welling up, like a physical thing inside his chest. He’dknown something bad was going to happen…and he’d let her go .
Why, oh why, had he let her go?
Ha’ishan > old man
Ar ame ir abelas, lethal’lin > I am sorry, clan mate
Din > no
Vin > yes
Enfants > children