Actions

Work Header

Man Hands on Misery to Man

Chapter Text

Adrian Trevelyan was 6 years old and he loved three things, in order from least to most: his cat, his parents, and his older brother, Georgie.

He also had an older sister, Evelyn Trevelyan, who was a terror, Adrian thought. Their mother always disagreed, and reminded Adrian that Evelyn was his sister and the only people you really had was family and would he please apologize for calling her a cow? Adrian would reply that Georgie and Father and Mother were enough and no he would not. Not until she took credit for putting a spider on Tutor Adele’s desk, which he got blamed for.

She was fifteen and interested only in what Adrian assumed most girls were interested in at fifteen: namely, hunting with their father, and the templars.

Not courting a templar, mind you, or having a templar court her. No, Evie was interested in being a templar, which was something that was apparently very hard and took a lot of training. So she would spend most of her days practicing sword fighting in the back garden, and spend her nights pulling pranks on the staff and teasing Adrian and Georgie.

Most of her ire was saved for Georgie. Adrian, at six, was mostly written off as “boring”, and honestly, after he put mud in the pockets of her pants five or six times, she stopped bothering him.

Georgie, on the other hand, was two years older and an artist, who cared very little for anything to do with battlefields outside of subject matter. He cared even less for Templars, who he called rude. So Evie called him weak one day and foolish the next. Georgie, who never learned that the only way to deal with bullies was to hit back, would cry. Evie would realize she had gone too far, apologize, and they would be best friends for a couple of weeks before the cycle inevitably started again.

Evelyn didn’t call this cycle bullying, she said it was “character building” and really she was helping Georgie toughen up. Adrian thought that she was full of it, so he made it a point to make her life a little terror as well, stealing her sword polish, putting frogs in her bed, and setting his cat on her whenever he got the chance. (the cat never listened though. She was too good for their war.)

His cat was a grey tabby and wickedly clever. His father had bought her as a kitten and let Adrian name her. He named her Andy, after Andraste, which he thought was clever, but his sister, Evelyn said was stupid and that he was stupid and his stupid cat was even more stupid and he should pick a proper name like Clarissa, or Suzette. Adrian had hit her in the arm(not even very hard!) and Evelyn had complained and Adrian was sent to his room without supper.

Andy stayed Andy and Evelyn was still his big sister, and a girl, and didn’t understand boys and their cats (he told that last part to Georgie, his brother, who laughed and when he asked why Georgie just said “You’ll get it when you're older”). Andy was still brilliant though. Twice now, she’d brought him trout from the river. And once when he was bored to death in his lessons, Andy spilled an inkwell all over Tutor Adele’s dress. She’d canceled lessons for the whole day. Evie had said it was an accident, but he knew it wasn’t because he had been thinking really hard about wanting to leave and then Andy looked at him and then to the inkwell and winked. He had never seen a cat wink before, but it was clear: Andy winked directly at him.

There were other, odder things too, that he didn’t dare tell anyone about because he knew he would sound crazy. Like once, when he was dancing in his room Andy stood up on her hind legs and joined him. It wouldn’t have been that impressive except right when the music in Adrian’s head was reaching it’s frenzied peak, Andy balanced on the tip of her paws and twirled around in three perfect circles.

Then there was the time he had been sick and Andy had been laying on his chest. He had a chest cold and breathing was already hard without her weight. He was about to move her when she mewled at him, and then above her head in a semi circle, three little blue and green lights danced, zipping and zagging in and around each other, creating little explosions and then reforming into balls of light that moved in harmony.

“Are you a magic cat,” Adrian asked aloud. Andy blinked lazily.

“If you were a magic cat, you should talk. All magic animals should talk,” though Adrian knew that wasn’t true. Dragons didn’t talk, he was pretty sure. And no one ever mentioned the Grey Wardens of old flying in on talking griffins. Still, not to sound ungrateful to the Maker or anything, but he thinks he would have liked a magic cat if she could talk.

He stared, mesmerized, certain his cat was some kind of cat-mage, (did they even have Circles for cats?) possibly the first in existence, before Nanny Drier came in with an elf-root potion and Andy jumped off his chest in search of mice, or cheese, or perhaps more trout, and the lights disappeared. He’d pretended to sleep then, opening his eyes with an exaggerated yawn. His nanny gave him a suspicious look, (probably thinking he had been the culprit behind putting frogs in her bed, but he hadn’t, that particular prank had been Evelyn’s doing), but said nothing, and for once, he drank his elfroot potion without complaint.

It hadn’t happened since, but he remembered how the light caught Andy’s yellow eyes, how magical it had been, and thought it was ok to have secrets, even if they were from his parents, or the Maker. As long as they weren't hurting anybody it couldn't be that bad? And it would definitely hurt more if you told your parents your cat was a mage.

The Trevelyans had…opinions on magic. Adrian didn't know much about them, other than magic was something that happened to other families, thank you, families that didn't love the Maker with their whole being and make their children get up early to practice the Chant of Light.

But the lights hadn't been hurting anyone, they had just been pretty and made him feel better. Adrian spent the rest of the day in bed and then felt much better the next day. The lights and all possibility of being a mage were forgotten because there were frogs to catch and put in Nanny's bed.

--

Adrian loved his parents, in the way all children loved their parents: completely and with his whole heart. As far as he was concerned, his father hung the stars and his mother the moon. His mother was a herbalist, a scientist and healer in her free time, studying the humors and how the imbalance of different bile affected the body.

If he was very quiet, and mother was in a good mood, he could sneak into her lab where she was extracting poultices and potions, blood and bile. He would stare at her while she worked and marvel at her quickness and precision. After a while, Mother would turn to him and say “Is that a creature that escaped from my lab? A science experiment gone wrong?” and Adrian would jump out and say, “No Mother, it’s only me!”

She pretended to be surprised and said “Oh Adrian, thank goodness you scared me. Come up on my lap and look. I picked Prophet's Laurel from the garden today. I want to know what happens when you mix it with black lotus.”

Adrian would sit in her lap and listen to her talk. Her voice was soft and often he fell asleep. He always woke up laid out on a bench he kept in her lab, usually under a heavy coat. She would still be there, working on a new poultice, but she wouldn’t acknowledge him and Adrian knew it was time to leave.

His father, George Sr., Bann of Ostwick, was more of a presence. Tall and well built with a full head of dark curly hair, and a long nose, his father was always announced into the room not by his advisors, or servants, but by the heavy step of his boots as they clattered against the stone. A hunter, an amatuer poet, and all around Bann about town, his father considered himself a warrior with a poet's soul.

No one ever asked Adrian, but if they did, he would have remarked that he didn’t think his father was a very good poet, but an excellent hunter, who made killing sound fun. It often put him at odds with Georgie, who spent a week coming up with a humane mice trap and cried when Andy brought back a dead baby bird.

They bickered (rather their father bickered and Georgie hung his head in shame and said nothing) mostly about whether or not Georgie, who would be eighteen shortly after Solis, had received a proper education in the martial arts. The worst this fight ever got, at least to Adrian’s knowledge, was at dinner one night. The scene started normal enough, but they were serving a new honey wine, which always made Father nostalgic for the only battle he had ever fought in: at the age of fifteen, he had joined his father in Hasmal as they attempted to push back an invasion from Nevarra.

Three cups in, Father had turned red faced and bellowed “When is there going to be another war? It’s been too damned peaceful around here recently. We need a war to liven up the place.”

Mother shook her head and Georgie buried his head into his venison pie, about as red in the face as father.

“George dear,” Mother said, her tone warning him off. “We should be thankful the Maker has blessed us with many years of peace-”

“Of course, Isadora, of course,” father barreled on bravely, “ but we could us another damn war. Art and writing are all fine and well in their time, but the battlefield is where boys become men! I remember when I was in Hasmal, there was a man charging at me, and not two feet in front of me, he stopped because my father had taken his head clean off. Mark my words boy, that was the day your father became a man...”

“George, please we are trying to eat.”

Father, who up until this point had been speaking generally, honed in on Georgie. “Look, when I was a boy, I told my father I wanted to be a poet and do you know what he said? Nothing, he cut a switch off a tree and beat me till I was black and blue. I promised then I would never raise a hand to my children, and I would never stop them from being poets, if that’s what they’ve wanted, and I never have. But you are going to be Bann one day and you’ve got to learn the martial arts if you are going to amount to anything!”

Georgie said nothing, just sank further down into his chair, eyes cast down as if he found the floor the most interesting thing in the room.

“Well? Georgie, say something!” his father bellowed, and his face was proper red now, the color of cranberry tart that was supposed to be dessert. “Don’t you want to accomplish something, son? Don’t you want to make the Trevelyan name proud?”

Georgie looked up at that, and Adrian had to be the one to look away, because he knew Georgie would have tears in his eyes, and Adrian couldn’t bear to see it. “I’m trying,” Georgie said, his voice as pained and whined as one of father’s hunting dogs.

“You can’t just try boy,” father slammed a well-made fist onto the table, “You have to do it, you just have to do it-”

“Well maybe if someone told me what I have to do, instead of just telling me to do it, than I would be able to-” And Adrian wanted to sink into his seat, he hated it when they fought-it wasn't that bad yet, but it would get worse, it always got worse-

“Don’t talk to me like that, boy, I am your father and the Bann and you will speak to me with some respect-”

“Why don’t you just do it, Father? If it’s so easy? Or, better yet, why don’t you make Evelyn Bann? Maker knows she’s picked up your more sadistic talents-”

“Enough,” Mother’s voice cut across the din, as clear as crystal, “Enough. Georgie, don’t talk back to your father, and don’t talk about Evelyn that way. George dear, with me.” Father would get up from his seat and follow Mother into the kitchen where they would whisper- argue over the eggs and plucked pheasant.

Adrian and Evelyn would sit in silence for a moment and then Evelyn said, “Father’s right you know. You can’t just be Bann with pretty words and paintings. You have to be ready to fight. For your land, for Ostwick. Whatever.”

“Shut up, Evie,” Adrian scraped his pie around his dish, but secretly, a pit would form in his stomach because he was afraid she was right, that Georgie wasn’t like their father and didn’t have what it takes to be Bann. It was a duty that made you responsible for a lot of people.

“And who does he think he is anyway? ‘Sadistic’ Please. Just because he doesn’t want to go hunting or learn to fight doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t enjoy it. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us.” (Adrian didn’t know who “us” was. Personally he had never killed anything, not even an animal, and while he didn’t necessarily think Georgie was right, he didn’t think he was wrong either.)

Evelyn pretended to consider the issue, twirling her fork in the air. “Of course, Father could just make me Bann. I’ve certainly got what it takes, and it would be better than being married to Lord Whats-it and taking care of his lands. Or worse, being a Sister.” Evelyn stuck out her tongue at the idea of that particular future.

Again, privately, Adrian wondered if she wasn’t wrong, and hated himself for it. He loved Georgie too much to agree with Evelyn. Georgie was his favorite person in the whole world, he loved him even more than Andraste and the Maker. Instead of saying anything he got up from the table, picked up a glass of wine and dumped it all over Evelyn’s head. He knew she would try to pay him back later, but it was worth it, he thought, as he raced down the hall, and she shrieked curses behind him.

Later that night, he crouched by the door to his room, slightly cracked just enough to let a little candle light in, and strained to hear his father talking to Georgie.

“...not your fault. It’s your mother. You take after her side of the family,” his father said, his tones hushed.

“I know Father,” Georgie replied, painfully neutral, his voice not betraying a tremor.

“There’s nothing wrong with you boy, but you’re almost eighteen, you’ve got to start thinking...I mean, you’re going to be Bann one day-” his father always stumbled over this part. Emotion was for dramatic moments. Great declarations of love, battlefield speeches to whip your soldiers into a blood frenzy, anger over injustice, those were easy, but the little moments, like apologizing to his child, escaped him.

“I think you should come hunting with us tomorrow. Your mother says it would do us some good.”

“Of course, Father,” Georgie said, but he sounded as if Father had just sentenced him to prison.

Adrian could almost see his father’s wide hand encompassing Georgie’s shoulder for this next part, could hear the raw emotion in his voice. “You know I love you. Right, son?”

“Of course, Father. I love you too,” Georgie said back immediately, almost sounding relieved. Adrian never understood it. Of course Father loved him. Father, and Mother, and even Evie when she wasn’t being awful, which was rare, but still.

The next morning, everyone went down to breakfast as though nothing had happened. Georgie’s bow and quiver seated next to him.

--

A week after their fight and subsequent hunt, Georgie was laid up in bed sick, which to Adrian seemed like a worse punishment than anything. And worst of all, no one would tell him what Georgie was sick with, only to leave him alone, Georgie didn’t want to see him, which was ridiculous, because Georgie always wanted to see him.

Adrian was not prone to worry, but then Georgie would get sick, sometimes for weeks at a time and no one would tell Adrian why. He only knew that when Georgie was sick like this he would spend weeks in his bed, only getting up when Mother made him for meals. He would pick over his food, never speaking to anyone else. When he was asked a question, he gave only one word answers and seemed distracted, his mind far away from them. And he would look so tired, even though all he had been doing was sleeping. Weren’t sicknesses supposed to end? In Adrian’s experience, they did, either because you got better or you died, but Georgie never seemed to get better. Or he would, for a little while, and then it would come back, sometimes worse than before.

It’s cancer, Adrian thought, at night, long after Nanny had given him a kiss goodnight, And it’s never going to go away. He’s going to die and no one told you.

So, despite the warnings from his Nanny, the insistence that Georgie was sick, but needed time and rest and he would feel better, Adrian had to see for himself.

Georgie’s room was in the far north side of the house, close to Adrian’s, but away from their parents and Evelyn's. Georgie was a brilliant artist and went through many interests and hobbies. His paintings littered the manor's hallways and rooms, coloring the manor with reds and oranges, blues, and greens. Adrian’s favorite, which hung in his room, was a portrait of a giant nug eating a wyvern, which managed to be both grotesque and very funny. Adrian had laughed when Georgie had shown him that one, and laughed more when Georgie started tickling him and didn’t stop until Adrian threatened to pee all over both of them.

Georgie's own room was an explosion. Clothes thrown down where they had been taken off, paints and paint brushes, books thrown about. His many projects littered the walls, some half finished canvases and tapestries depicting everything from grand battles to lovers in heartbreak. It was Adrian's favorite place in the manor, even more than his own room and he often would on days when it rained, staring at the ceiling where Georgie had painted scenes of templars and jesters, griffons and chickens, dark spawn in daisy chains and sitting down to supper with Grey Wardens. Mother called his art “irreverent”, but Georgie said that he liked to root for the little guy, and more importantly, they were funny.

(And he said, to Adrian, privately, that as long as he and Adrian liked them, who cared if anyone else did? Adrian had always liked that. It made him feel as if Georgie only painted for him and no one else.)

When he entered (quietly, in case Georgie really didn’t want to see him.), Georgie was laying on his bed, his face turned up to the ceiling, his arm brought over his head and covering his eyes. He almost looked relaxed, except his body was taught, like a harp string about to snap and the hand over his face was clenched into a fist.

“Georgie,” Adrian whispered, in case Nanny was hiding, “Are you alright?”

Georgie started a little then (Adrian was so sneaky), moved his arm, and sat up. His face was splotchy and his eyes were red, as if he had been trying very hard not to cry.

“Yeah, Adrian, I’m alright,” Georgie said, though his face was tight and Adrian knew for certain he had been crying.

“Are you in pain? Should I call Mother?”

Georgie smiled at him softly then gestured that he come up. Adrian scrambled into the bed, laid next to him, and Georgie sat up properly then and gave him a hug.

“I’m not in pain and you don’t have to call Mother. I’m just not feeling very well, is all. The feeling will pass, just like it always does,” but he didn’t sound very hopeful, just resigned to a life of whatever this was.

Adrian had always hated when Georgie was sick, had suspected that he was in pain, but now he had proof and he wanted more than anything to make him feel better, to justify his being there, bothering him. Georgie was here, but far away and Adrian wanted him here, next to him, running through the streets of Ostwick, on the beaches and in the forests looking for interesting things. He wanted Georgie to be here to teach him archery and sneaking around, and all the things it was important for a boy to know.

He remembered when he was sick, months ago, when Andy had made little fireworks above him. It had been so magical he had cheered up instantly and felt better at the mere memory the next day. Andy was off somewhere in the garden and frustratingly would only appear at dinner which was still hours off. Adrian wished he could make her appear, or make the lights appear himself, but such a thing was impossible, and just as that thought popped into his head, he did it.

“Georgie,” Adrian tugged on his sleeve and Georgie followed his gaze up to the ceiling, “Georgie look!”

They were just as brilliant as they had been the first time, except this time the colors were warm, orange and red and yellow lights sparkling and zipping into each other, one bouncing off the other and then back into its own orbit, spinning around and fizzing out, only to reignite seconds later, more brilliant than the last. He had done that, but how had he done it?

“Georgie-” he started.

“You’re a mage,” Georgie said, whispering. His face looked gray now, and while he was looking up at the little lights in awe, he also seemed afraid.

“That’s- I’m not- Georgie, that’s not possible,” he ended on, because it wasn’t. Adrian didn’t know much about mages, but he knew the House Trevelyan didn’t have them in the family line. Mage blood was cursed, so only families with weak faiths had mages in the family, and the Trevelyan’s were very pious, very close to the chantry and not at all-

“I don’t believe it. You’re a mage. You have to be the first mage in the family....ever.” Georgie was looking at him now, as if Adrian had revealed that he had turned into a dragon in the middle of the night, and in a way, he guessed, he had.

“I’m sorry,” Adrian whispered, because he was. “Georgie, I didn’t know. I thought-Andy I thought she was magic.”

“Adrian you can’t- wait what about your cat?” Georgie shook his head, as if he could go back and stop the last minute from happening. “It doesn’t matter.”

He stood up and checked the door. He locked it, then started pacing around the room. “It doesn’t matter,” Georgie repeated. “We can’t change the Makers' will now, we just have to figure out how we’re going to deal with it.”

Georgie stopped his pacing and turned sharply to Adrian. “Does anyone else know about this? Have you shown this to anyone?”

Adrian could start to feel his lower lip start to wobble, his chest tightening with tears. “Only Andy,” he sniffled.

For a moment Georgie looked relieved, then he crossed the room and grabbed Adrian by his shoulders.

“It is very important that you listen to me. Are you listening?” Adrian nodded, crying in earnest now. Georgie’s eyes weren’t scared anymore, but looked wild.

“You have to promise me you won’t tell anyone else about this or use magic where anyone can see. If you do that, the templars will come and take you away, and you’ll never see us again. Do you understand?” Georgie’s grip tightened, as if he was the one in danger of slipping away.

“You mean you aren’t going to tell anyone?” Adrian asked, his voice wet with tears. Georgie seemed to notice Adrian’s tears then and softened. He brought up his hands to wipe them away and they felt cool against Adrian’s cheeks.

“Oh Adrian, no. I would never do that. As long as you promise not to agree to anything in your dreams, I’ll protect you. But you have to promise me. No more light shows, or turning people into frogs, or anything else you might have been doing.”

Adrian wanted to start crying again, out of relief. His heart swelled with love for Georgie, and he was so grateful that the Maker had given him such a wonderful older brother, who wouldn’t sell him out or send him away.

Adrian never wanted to use magic again, he decided on that bed. “I promise,” he said and Georgie hugged him. They stayed like that a little while, until a servant came to get them for supper.

Adrian’s magic would remain a secret, their secret, and if Adrian thought he had loved Georgie before that love was tenfold now. He sat across from him at dinner, and Georgie grinned at him, softly, before digging into supper.

Did the food taste better tonight? It seemed to. He wasn’t even sure what they were eating, but it didn’t matter. Adrian ate as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks, and Adrian saw that Georgie was eating the same way. It was the first night in a while that he had seen Georgie eat as if he were tasting his food. It was as if he had forgotten food existed and now that he was reminded he ate with pleasure. Their mother saw it too.

“Are you feeling better, Georgie?” she asked. Georgie looked up from dinner and made eye contact with Adrian. He didn’t look particularly happy, but he didn’t look sad anymore either.

Adrian grinned up at him, his cheeks bursting.

“Y’know,” Georgie said after a minute, “I think I am.”