What Walks Down Stairs?

This story was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth and my experience in looking it up to get ideas on how to use it (restoring spring).  The girls have their physics wrong, but they’re only fifteen and haven’t really had that class in school.

**

Varric looked up from his writing with a frown.  There was a strange sound coming from the hallway.  He couldn’t even imagine what it might have been.  However, whatever was making the sound, it was amusing someone.  Childish laughter rang from the corridor as well.

Setting his pen aside, Varric pushed away from the table and went to the doorway.  Frieda and Liesel were sitting at the base of a set of stairs.  They were watching as something slinked and slithered its way towards them.  All the while, it made a strange sound.  It took Varric a moment to realize the thing was, in fact a spring.

“That thing is… walking down the steps,” he said, frowning.

Frieda glanced over at him, while Liesel caught the spring and carried it back up to the next landing.  Then her sister released it and laughed as she raced the thing back down to where Frieda was.  Nodding, Frieda said, “It’s a spring toy.  Markus said it works by… restoring force, or something.”

“Springs bounce,” Liesel said, nodding sagely.  “It wants to go back to the shape it was, so it pulls the other end down, but then it overbalances and falls to the next step.”

Varric shook his head and turned away.  “Have fun, girls,” he said.  He had been away from his writing long enough.  He needed to finish this book.  At least, now he knew what the strange noise was.

Sneaking Around

This scene was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (an effective cloak for any dagger).  It’s a scene in my latest Real Fears/Dragon Age: Inquisition Crossover.  The Real Fears characters are mine… DA characters are not.

**

Johannes heard a noise in the corridor and frowned. His first thought was that it was one of his siblings or one of the other occupants of the castle. He padded over to the door calling, “Hello? Who’s there?”

As he opened the door. He saw a shadow move in the darkness. There was a flash of light, reflected from the moon. Acting on instinct, Johannes snapped up the hood of his cloak. He felt stinging pain in his arm and then he was in the center of light and noise. He sat down heavily as the laughter in the tavern cut off.

“Hansel,” Konrad rasped, rushing to his side. Master Dorian dropped to his knees beside Johannes as well. “What happened?” the two men asked together.

“You’re bleeding,” Master Dorian added, setting a hand over Johannes’s shoulder.

Johannes gasped as pain tore through his shoulder. Tears stung his eyes and then he looked up at Konrad. “S-someone… I heard someone outside my room. I thought it was you. When I went check, I saw… I think it was knife.”

Konrad cursed and surged to his feet. He took off, as did many of the other occupants of the tavern. The Iron Bull pointed to Johannes and said, “Stitches, see to that.”

As the healer knelt beside Johannes, it finally hit him what had happened. If he hadn’t had his cloak, he would have been killed. Before Stitches could even begin tending to his injury, Johannes was sobbing.

“Easy, easy,” Stitches said, his tone calm. “You’re all right. You’re safe now. There’s no need for that.” He continued his low patter of soothing words, even as he cleaned and dressed the wound. As he help Johannes to his feet, he said, “It’s not so bad, Goldie. You’re all right now.”

Johannes rubbed at his eyes with the hand on his uninjured side and nodded. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice cracking. “I – Crying won’t help. I know that, but… I was so scared!”

“Crying won’t hurt either,” Stitches said, patting his shoulder gently. “Now you’ve let it all out, you can take a couple breaths and dry your eyes.” He gave Johannes a weak smile and said, “Here’s your brother back now.”

Turning, Johannes saw Konrad striding towards him. “Did you catch him?” he asked, rubbing at his eyes again.

Konrad shook his head and pulled Johannes into an embrace. “He was gone, but we found your cloak,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Thank God you have that cloak.”

“Who knew it would protect him from a dagger?” Master Dorian said, his tone wry. He gave Johannes a weak smile. “The rest of the Chargers continued with the chase. They’ll find whomever it was that attacked you, Johannes.”

“Thank you, Master Dorian,” Johannes said. He looked over at Stitches. “Thank you.”

Waving his words away, Stitches turned to Konrad. “It was long, but pretty shallow,” he said. “He’ll be fine.”

“Thank you,” Konrad said, nodding. He kissed Johannes on his brow and murmured, “Thank God you have that cloak.” Johannes didn’t feel the need to tell his brother that he’d already said that.

This is how rumors get started…

This story was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe Dream Width (a long beard) and something that I was discussing with my sister the other day.  Yes… Liesel and Frieda are stand-ins for my sister and I.  Varric is from Dragon Age…

**

Frieda frowned as she watched Varric telling a story.  After a moment, timing it so that no one would hear her, she leaned over to Liesel and said, “I think I’ve figured it out.”

Liesel’s eyes brightened.  Of course, she would know what Frieda meant.  They’d been working on the question together since they’d first met Varric.  “You know why he doesn’t have a beard?” she whispered.  “It’s not because he’s just that awesome?”

“No,” Frieda said, grinning.  The other day, Liesel had suggested that his beard, terrified of Varric’s awesomeness, chose to live on his chest.  Frieda had a different idea.  “He’s a beardless dwarf!”

Liesel nodded and then she realized what Frieda meant.  “That’s perfect,” she said.  “He likes the comforts of home, he sings and tells stories and he’s all over hairy!  He’s like the characters in brother’s book!”

“Exactly,” Frieda said, grinning.  She leaned back in her chair, finally satisfied that they had answered the question.  Varric didn’t have a long beard because he wasn’t a dwarf at all.  Not really, anyway.

Searching for Answers

This little scene was inspired by a phrase prompt at the WriYe DreamWidth (The Library).  It’s not a terribly exciting scene in and of itself, but it does make me think of possible plots to follow with these characters.

**

Whenever Konrad asked, he was told that there was no precedent for it.  No member of a Cross family had married a member of another member of a Cross family.  It had simply never happened. Konrad didn’t believe that for a moment.  He’d also been told repeatedly that they always lived together as a community.  You didn’t have people living together, growing up together and attending community events together and have none of them ever intermarry.  It couldn’t be both ways.  That meant that one thing or the other was wrong.  Since Konrad knew that most of the Cross families lived in towns called “Haven” that left the idea that none of them had ever intermarried.

He did what his teachers had always taught him to do when he had a question and no one was giving him a satisfying answer: he began to do research.  There was only one place where he could go for information at that moment: the library.

It didn’t take very long before he had narrowed in on the section of the library that he was interested in.  It had all the information on the people who had lived in Starkhaven.  There were property records and marriage certificates and birth records.  He started with the earliest records that he could find and began searching.

He’d seen how Cross families were marked in such records before, so it wasn’t difficult to pick out family names and began tracing lineages.  He smiled when he found what he was looking for.  Not once or twice.  No, several times he found Cross families that had intermarried.  Each time the result was the same.  He released a deep breath and pushed the books away.

“How goes the research?” a soft voice said.

Konrad glanced over his shoulder and nodded.  He wasn’t at all surprised to see Dorian standing there.  The man loved books – or seemed to, at least.  “It’s just like you said,” his voice faint.  “When the member of one Cross family marries another, their children are stronger than other children in their generation.”

Dorian nodded.  “Magic does that,” he said, shrugging.  “It’s common practice in Tevinter.  Strong mages marry other strong mages, so that their children are that much more powerful.”  He leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest.  “I find it curious that it would meet with so much resistance among your… sort of mage.”

Rolling his eyes, Konrad held up the family lineage he had found.  “Here’s why,” he said, his voice soft.  “This family had two other families marry into their line.  It made them that much more powerful, but… now you have to ensure that the next generation is three times larger, or you risk losing a gift.”

After a moment, Dorian nodded in understanding.  He smoothed a hand over his mustache.  “It’s like with your family and your cousins,” he said.  “The gift that Estera inherited could have, just as easily, gone to Frieda, but… then there wouldn’t be an Engel Lance.”

“Because Frieda would be the Balchunas Staff and there are just five of us,” Konrad said, nodding.  He shut the book and then heaved a sigh.  “So, then,” he said, “that just means we need to make sure that there are plenty of little Engels and Balchunases in the next generation.”

“Best of luck with that,” Dorian said, nodding.

Konrad couldn’t help but chuckle softly at his words.  “Yeah,” he agreed, a faint flush darkening his cheeks.

Puzzle it Out

A little scene wherein Johannes muses on the crazy nicknames Varric gives people.  Varric belongs to Dragon Age: Inquisition.  Johannes and his siblings are my own characters.  This is sort of an alternate universe-crossover of the two groups.  This scene was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

Johannes found it interesting that Master Varric seemed so opposed to using people’s proper names.  He called them Birdie, Bean, Chicky, Pokey and Goldie, rather than Gilbert, Markus, Liesel, Frieda and Johannes.  He called Master Dorian by the name “Sparkler” while the Iron Bull was called “Tiny.”

Sometimes, the names were straightforward.  Dorian’s name came from the shiny bits of metal all over his clothing.  Frieda used her pike to stab the demons they fought.  Johannes had golden hair and a golden voice and… his magic made demons vanish in a shower of golden light.  With so much gold, what else would Master Varric call him?

Sometimes, the names were meant in a sort of tongue-in-cheek or teasing manner.  He called the Iron Bull “Tiny” in the same way that Robin Hood’s companion was “Little John.”  He was just so big that calling him by such a name amused Master Varric.

Other names hinted at something less obvious.  Like the way he called all the female elves by flower names.  Liesel’s nickname came from her occasional attempts to fly.  He was subtly reminding her that she wasn’t a full grown bird yet.  She was just a chick and chicks couldn’t fly.

Gilbert’s nickname came from the fact that he could call birds right out of the trees.  None of them quite knew how he even did that.  Johannes wasn’t altogether certain his brother knew how he did it.  Then… there was Markus’s nickname.

“Bean?” Johannes said, looking at his elder brother.  He shook his head.  “Why does Master Varric call you that, Markus?”

Markus heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes.  He ruffled a hand through his hair.  “After he was hurt, I ran and got his journal for him,” he said, shrugging.  “He thanked me and I said he could call me a helpful elf.”

“Like in the story with the shoemaker,” Johannes said, grinning.

Nodding, Markus said, “He told me… ‘You’re not an elf.  You’re a human being.”  He shrugged.  “After that, he started calling me ‘Bean’.”  He flushed when Johannes began laughing.  “It’s not funny.”

“It really is,” Johannes countered.

To See the Truth

This little scene with Johannes, Dorian and Mykolas was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth: “With our own eyes we see”.  Dorian is from Dragon Age: Inquisition.

**

“Let me,” Johannes said, dropping to his knees beside the injured man.  He held his hands, palms down, over the injury and began to sing.

After a moment, Dorian could see the wounds knitting back together.  He stared in surprise when the young man took a deep breath and then moaned.  “You healed him,” Dorian said, touching Johannes lightly on one shoulder.

Nodding, Johannes ended the song and gave Dorian a weak smile.  “The elders keep telling me that I can only heal members of my own family, but… I figured he’s our cousin.  Even if he’s another True Cross, he’s still related.”

Dorian nodded.  “It seems that you were correct,” he said.  He frowned slightly at Johannes, trying to figure out if the boy had pushed himself too far.  He seemed to do that rather often.  After a moment, he turned to the young man that was just waking.

“The Singer,” he breathed.

“I purified it,” Johannes said, his tone brisk.  More gently, he said, “Right before I healed you.  Are you all right, Mykolas?”

“You… of course,” he said, nodding.  He laughed and shook his head.  “That means I could have healed Frieda after all!”

“That was almost two years ago,” Johannes said, getting to his feet.  “Don’t worry about it now!”

Seasons of Change

This little scene was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  Cullen Rutherford gets a cameo – he’s from Dragon Age: Inquisition.

**

79-e0df9776c8Konrad watched the children – his younger brothers and sisters – playing in the snow. Liesel and Frieda were building a snowman. Markus was cheerfully making suggestions – finding small stones and suitable sticks for the details. Johannes was sliding down small slopes of snow in the courtyard on a shield.

Once the snowman was finished, the wind picked up, shaking the last of autumn’s leaves from the trees. Liesel and Frieda laughed as the wind swirled around them, carrying snow and leaves in equal measure. Markus chuckled as he tied his scarf around the snowman’s neck. Then, he beckoned to his sisters. “Let’s try sledding,” he said. Then, he spun away and hurried over to where Johannes was. Soon, the four of them were taking turns sliding through the courtyard on the shield.

Konrad stifled a laugh when Cullen appeared in the doorway of the tavern scowling. He shrugged and waved at the children. “Johannes found a creative use for that shield,” he said.

Cullen grimaced. “Just as long as he doesn’t break it, I suppose,” he said, shaking his head.

Crossing the Line

Yet another one of my crossover pieces with my Engels and the characters from Dragon Age: Inquisition.  It’s a small scene that was prompted by a phrase from the WriYe DreamWidth: Find where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.

**

Johannes strode into the tavern that was called “The Herald’s Rest” and glanced around.  It took him only a moment to spot the Inquisitor and the members of her inner circle.  They were sitting around a table by the fire.  For a moment, Johannes simply stood in the doorway.  His brothers and sisters were at his back.  He waited until one of the people they were there to see noticed him.

Dorian spotted them first.  He blinked and set his drink down on the table, before leaning to one side to whisper to the Inquisitor.

As she met Johannes’s gaze, Konrad leaned down to ask, “Are you sure about this, Hansel?”  He knew as well as Johannes that the other elders wouldn’t approve of what he was about to do.  The Crosses were meant to keep all information about Singers secret from everyone outside of the families.  The line was clearly drawn and Johannes was well aware of what he was doing by telling these people – these outsiders – anything beyond what they had absolutely needed to know.

Nodding in response to his brother’s question, Johannes stepped forward.  He made his way over to the table where the Inquisitor sat with far more confidence than he actually felt.  He paused behind two women and bowed politely.  “My lady,” he said, “there’s something I need to discuss with you.”  He spoke in a soft voice, but there was no hint of fear in his tone.  Then, with cool deliberateness, he crossed the line that had been so neatly laid out for him two years before.

Frosted Leaves

This little scene between Dorian and Frieda was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  Frieda is my own character, but Dorian is from Dragon Age: Inquisition.

**

The leaves were frosted with snow from the storm the previous night.  To Frieda, it looked like ice fairies had come to dance over everything.  It was something her mother had told her when she and Liesel were very small.  The frost came from tiny people dancing over the surface of everything in tiny ice skates.

Frieda stared at the leaves with wide eyes for several minutes.  One part of her wondered if the stories might actually be true, even while another part of her knew they were just tales that mothers tell their children.  Then, she heard a muffled sneeze behind her and turned around.  She tilted her head at Dorian.  “Are you not feeling well, Master Dorian?” she asked, frowning.

He shrugged and waved around.  “Nothing more than the weather, my dear,” he assured her.  “It’s nothing that you need be concerned about.”

She stepped across the snow-covered ground to stand by his side.  He was shivering and she remembered the Iron Bull saying that it was typically much warmer where Dorian had come from.  He wasn’t used to the cold.  He was wearing a full robe today, not his one-sleeved robe.  She imagined that helped, but he wasn’t exactly bundled against the cold.

Frieda startled when she realized that he was speaking.  “I’m sorry… What?” she said, tilting her head to the other side and grinning at him.

He returned her smile.  “Your brother was looking for you,” he said.  “He wants you to join him in the… practice room, he said.”

“Right,” Frieda said, nodding.  She waved and hurried inside.  She was fairly certain that Dorian wouldn’t linger outside for long.  He wasn’t dressed for the cold, not really.  It was passed time that someone did something about that.  She giggled to herself and quickened her pace.  She needed to speak with Liesel.

A Moment of Levity

This is another little scene featuring my original characters in Thedas.  Varric puts in an appearance and the Bull’s Chargers are mentioned.  It was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (The light laughter that bubbles on the lip).

**

Varric was familiar with children that had been forced to grow up too quickly.  He’d seen it all too often in his life.  He had been, if he was perfectly honest, probably coming at the situation from personal experience as well.  However, it struck him as… just odd in this case.  Markus and Liesel and Frieda all acted as he would have expected young people their ages to act.  It was only Johannes – the youngest – that acted far older than his years.

He was thirteen and he looked like a thirteen year old boy would: still not at his full growth, still with the round cheeks of childhood.  He still had a high, child-like voice that would crack occasionally, hinting that he’d settle into a baritone, like his eldest brother one day.  However, he carried himself like a little adult.  He spoke like an adult.  He played, but only when Konrad would suggest that he should do so.

So it was – so it had been since Varric had first met the boy.  Then, the Chargers came in from a patrol with a boy about Johannes’s own age.  Varric startled when he heard the ring of childish laughter echo through the courtyard.  A moment later, the golden-haired boy careened past him to embrace the red-haired boy with the Chargers.

Johannes was still laughing when they broke apart.  Soon, the boys were chattering together with child-like glee.  Varric smiled and looked up at Konrad.  “A friend?”

“Leonas Balchunas,” Konrad said, his tone a bit wistful.  “He’s our cousin.  Petras will be glad to know that he’s been found safe and well.”

“They get along like a house on fire,” Markus said, grinning.

Varric nodded.  “It’s good to see him act his age,” he murmured.  Then, he headed down to greet the Chargers.

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