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Argument the Fifth: Economics

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Bull walks slowly behind Dorian, up the steep incline of the cliff.  The mage is struggling under the weight of the pack he carries.  “Hey, you guys, down there!”  The Inquisitors voice carries downhill - Bull peers up, into the grey of the rainclouds overhead, shades his eyes against the light and waves with his other hand.  “You gonna be long?” Taleth asks, and Bull grins and shrugs.  Her head disappears over the edge of the cliff, and Bull asks Dorian, “Do you need a hand with that?”

Dorian sighs, and says, “No.  I’m fine.  Really.”

“It just looks really heavy… are you sure…?”

“I’m sure,” Dorian says in a sing-song tone, one that says ‘if you ask me that again I’ll turn you into a ball of flame’.  And with that, the bottom of the pack gives out, spilling all the clothes and other accoutrements out and down the side of the cliff.  Dorian gives an inarticulate cry of frustration, and then strings together so many swear-words in Tevene that Bull isn’t sure where one starts and the next begins.  Bull pushes his laughter down inside himself, knows that it would be the worst possible response, and turns, loping down the slope to the bottom.  He begins to climb again, doubled over, picking up Dorian’s things as he does.  Although he can feel Dorian’s eyes on him, he doesn’t dare to look up.  “Er…” is all Dorian can manage once Bull finally reaches him.  He plucks a pair of briefs from the top of the pile Bull carries, “Thank you.  I don’t think I need Blackwall seeing these though.”  Bull snorts laughter as Dorian stuffs the underwear up his sleeve and smirks back.  

 

Taleth groans when they finally make it to the top of the incline and she sees the pile that Bull is carrying.  “Dorian,” she sighs in exasperation, “Fen’Harel take this compulsion to bring every scrap of clothing you own into the field.” She shakes her head, smiling indulgently at them, “Help us find this Grey Warden stuff, you two.”  

 

They find what they have come looking for, and make it back to the encampment before nightfall.  Dorian is sitting on a fallen log, as close as he can get to the fire without getting burnt, gazing mournfully at his soaked boots.  “I loved these boots,” he tells Bull, as he sits beside the mage, “I really loved them.  And now they’re completely ruined.”  He sighs and then grins at the flames, “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go shopping, next time we’re in Val Royeaux.”

“How could you love a pair of boots?  And if you really loved them… why aren’t you more upset about them being ruined?”  Bull looks at Dorian in confusion.  Dorian looks back, and rolls his eyes, “Oh Maker, this is going to be another of those conversations, isn’t it.”  He sighs dramatically, and then laughs.  “Alright, Bull, you lummox.  Let’s have it out.”  

Bull sighs, and tells Dorian, with an expression of complete seriousness, “I actually mean it.  I’m really curious about this, Dorian.”

“Alright,” Dorian huffs again, and then begins “In Tevinter, you can buy anything.  Literally, anything.   If you have enough wealth, you can buy power, prestige, the right name,” he laughs, somewhat bitterly, “Even such a nebulous thing as silence.”  He pauses, rubs his chin, “You don’t even think about it.  But you use your wealth to display as well, like…” he thinks, eyes roving over the line of the coast as he does, “like you have to put how wealthy you are on show; what you wear, the parties you give, who your friends are.  So that means that everyone, at least the people with money, who, let’s face it, are the people that I have had the most to do with, these people are constantly trying to outdo each other.”  He smiles, strangely, painfully, and then says, “That’s why I was such a problem to my father.  He could never buy me.”  

“Yeah,” Bull says, still looking confused, “But… why?  Why do they do it?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just make sure everyone has enough?”

“No.”  Dorian looks at him and laughs, “How on earth would that be easier?  It’s easier to let the system exist as the status quo; powerful and rich at the top, fucked and poor at the bottom.  I’m not saying it’s right, Bull,” Dorian looks at Bull then, and his fingers slide around the crook of Bull’s elbow, thumb stroking along the muscle in the back of Bull’s arm.  The gesture is curiously comforting.  “I’m just trying to explain the thought process.  It’s kind of like, ‘I have more stuff, and therefore I’m more powerful than you.’”

Bull is silent for a long time.  Then, very quietly, he says, “You know, I never had a pair of pants that were my own before I became a field agent in Orlais.  All property is common under the Qun.  We don’t have any money, either.  Which makes information the most powerful commodity, makes secrets more precious than gold.  It’s one of the best ways the ariqun knows to enforce the Law, through informants, the threat of what will happen to people if they’re informed upon.  Everyone is meant to be the same, everyone is meant to be treated equally.  But maybe if we let people be a bit more different…”

“You’d have people trying to one-up each other all over the place.  Who’s got a bigger house, who’s got the better horse…”

“Or they wouldn’t be so inclined to inform for gain.”  Bull sighs, sadly, “I guess people are just people, in the end.”

“So what are you saying?  There’ll never be a good system?”

“Nah.  Each system is only as good as the people within it.  Not the people leading it - leaders too often don’t mean shit, at least in large groups, they’re too often crippled by the people they got in back of them.  The people inside the system, that’s where the real change is.”

Dorian smiles.  It’s a real smile, full of hope and promise, and Bull feels his heart tighten in his chest when he sees it.  And then the look on Dorian’s face changes, becomes sad, though the smile remains, “But people are often as crippled as leaders - too wrapped up in day-to-day survival, too frightened of losing what little they have to effect a meaningful change.”

Bull shrugs, and returns Dorian’s smile before saying, “You know what?  I like to believe that though people might be scared and weak as individuals, it won’t take much to spur them once the changes begin.”

Dorian laughs, and it echoes out into the sunset.  He puts his head on Bull’s shoulder for a moment, and then pulls back and says to Bull, “Ever the optimist.  I like that, even if I don’t agree with it.”  He scrunches his nose, and says “Even if you do smell like a darkspawn’s armpits.”

Bull laughs and shakes his head, “I’m not even going to ask how you got close enough to a darkspawn to smell it’s pits.  You know you’re meant to kill them before they get that close, right?”  And they look at each other, and laugh, but all Bull can feel is Dorian’s hand on his arm, gripping the flesh like he won’t let go.