“So, Killer…how old are you, anyway?”
Sitting around the campfire, Varric uncapped his flagon and took a drink as he watched their newest team member. If you could call him that. Theron. He’d met them at the Crossroads, where Corporal Vale sung his praises. Apparently, no one knew the Hinderlands like he did.
The man was handsome in a rugged way, his face all sharp angles and quite tanned for an elf, but there were streaks in the blond hair around his temples that almost glowed in the firelight. Clearly a great hunter based on how well he’d stocked the town with game, but the fancy daggers strapped to his hips suggested he was something more.
However, besides being an excellent cook with a seemingly endless amount of snacks in his bag and a smile, he’d given them nothing. The man hardly talked unless spoken to, and sometimes not even then.
“You should know better than to ask a lady her age, Storyteller.” The man just grinned, and the firelight seemed to glitter off of his green eyes.
It was uncanny, and already Varric knew the ladies would love him as a character. Handsome, competent, and mysterious. He checked all the boxes so far. “Come on. Somebody’s gotta fuel the fire for my next novel.” Varric gave a grin that turned into a grimace. Seemed like tonight would be another night with no answers.
“What he meant to say…” Bull offered in his most wry tone. Just sarcastic enough to suggest humor, but gentle enough by design to make anyone want to share. “…was we’ve been traveling for weeks, and we still don’t know anything about you but your name. It’s normal to get to know teammates. Can’t be a well-oiled machine if you don’t know the parts and how they work.”
The elf paused mid-cut, an apple in one hand and a paring knife in the other. A small, round pan of similarly sliced pieces in his lap. Then he nodded and continued to slice. “Alright, yeah. Question for question then. Varric, how old are you?”
Varric chuckled, flashing a grin and leaning back as he sat a little straighter for his playful, dramatic reveal. “Just turned forty, Killer. Don’t be shy.”
Theron was quiet a moment, the apple pieces plopping as they were cut and the crackling of the fire the only sound, before he chuckled and answered, “I could be your grandfather.”
“Ha ha, very funny,” Varric rolled his eyes, taking another swig. “You know, if you didn’t want to-“
Looking at him in disbelief, Varric frowned. His lips pursed as if to respond, but then he stopped when a new voice joined them.
“I wasn’t aware current day elves lived over a hundred years.” Solas stepped over a log to Theron’s left and sat regally, collecting his robes around him.
That seemed to jolt Varric out of his stupor, and his voice caught up with him. “That’s because they don’t.”
“How would you know?” Theron asked carefully, reaching for his pack and seeming to scrounge in it for a moment, his arm digging deep before pulling out a jar of something and sprinkling it liberally all over the slices in the pan before putting it away and reaching for the pan’s lid. “Have any of you seen an elderly elf?”
“We have elders,” Elana spoke up as she and Cassandra joined the group and sat near Solas.
“But are they actually old, or just the eldest and wisest?” He teased, his expression softening at the Dalish woman. “Forgive me. I don’t mean that all elves would live to be my age, but I do think that our kind die quite young because of the environment we live in rather than nature’s design.”
“And what environment enabled you to live so much longer?” Solas didn’t even hide the suspicion in his tone. Whether it was because he didn’t believe Theron was what he said or if he questioned his methods, it was unclear.
Lid secured, Theron leaned forward to place the pan on the fire before settling back to wait. “Did you know…” He chose to look at Elana and answer with a question, much like he knew Solas did when he didn’t want to give a direct answer. He’d seen it several times just in the last three days. If anyone noticed, they said nothing. “Before the veil, ancient elves used to be immortal?”
“Before the veil…” Cassandra started, ready to defend her beliefs, but—
“What do you know of ancient elves?” Solas interrupted.
For their part, Bull and Varric remained quiet, recognizing a conflict waiting to happen and perhaps revelling in it. Varric with his quill out and Bull with his eye sharp and ready.
Theron focused on Elana, who said nothing but leaned forward onto her elbows.
“They didn’t age because everything they ate, drank, and breathed…was magic. Can you imagine? Eating an apple grown in soil drenched in magic. Drinking wine made of magical fruit.”
She raised an eyebrow at that, glancing at Solas who seemed aggitated, but had gone quiet. His lips pressed together tightly, but his eyes watched Theron as if the elf was a puzzle he couldn’t figure out. “So you stayed young by eating magical fruit?” she asked evenly.
“I would hardly call me young, da’len.” He grinned at that, reaching up to touch his salt-colored streaks. “But I’m saying that our bodies are our vessels, and I take good care of mine.” The suggestion was there and he let it rest. Whether he was sincere in his attention wasn’t really the point because he knew how enamoured Elana was with their resident apostate, and a quick glance showed the rigid line of said apostate’s back. Mission accomplished.
He softened his grin into a relaxed smile. “Actually, I have a story for you all, if you’re interested. About a God and his magical fruit.”
“Hell yeah, Killer. Storytime!” Varric, at least, was ready to record this…for posterity, of course.
“I would like to hear it as well.” Theron was surprised to hear the Seeker chine in.
“Wonderful…” He shifted from the log he sat onto the ground, choosing to rest his back against the solid wood instead. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…”
“Which God? Do you mean the Maker?” The Seeker interrupted, causing Varric to groan.
“It doesn’t matter, Seeker,” Theron assured lightly. “In this story, it doesn’t matter which God. It could have been only a God, the God, or not at God at all. Whoever it really was, doesn’t matter, but for this story, it was the only God this world knew…
Now, after he created Man and Woman, they came to live in Eden, a garden that God created filled with trees of every fruit you can imagine and all that tasted sweet. He said to his children, ‘You may eat of any tree in my garden except the Tree of Knowledge.’”
“Why would he create a tree that he didn’t want them to eat?” This time it was Solas who interrupted.
Theron cast a glance at the apostate and grinned, “Right? Seems a bit shifty, doesn’t it?
So it goes that Adam and Eve lived happily in the garden of Eden until one day a snake—demon, if you will—spoke to Eve and tempted her with knowledge and reason. If she was God’s child and he wanted her to be happy, why then, could she not eat from the one tree that would give her knowledge of everything ? And so she ate from the tree and shared the fruit with Adam, who ate as well.
After eating the fruit, the pair changed. They became aware of their nakedness for the first time and fashioned clothes out of leaves to hide their shame. Upon seeing this, God asked them why they hid themselves and when they revealed what they’d done, he cast them out of Eden forever and supposedly cursed Eve with monthly blood moons and painful childbirth.”
“Why did he only punish Eve? That hardly seems fair.” The Seeker demanded.
Theron shrugged a bit. “Yeah, don’t know. It’s just a story and frankly, probably written by a human man in a patriarchal society.”
Bull finally spoke again, “So… is all this stuff about magic fruit your way to keep dessert to yourself?”
The elf shook his head, “No, Bull. I’m telling you that I’m about to feed you a magic-ass pie, and you should eat it at your own risk. You want to add another year to your life and find out what happens when you eat pure magic? Eat and enjoy my damned pie. You want to stay in the dark and pretend immortality is a myth and magic is bad or scary? Don’t eat it. It’s that simple.”
The campfire got quiet, with each member shifting between blatant disbelief and caution while the smell of sweet grilled apples filled the air. Grabbing a thick leather glove that Theron used like an oven mitt, he pulled the pan off the fire and sat it on a rock just off the fire before removing the lid. The steam that escaped made every mouth water.
“So. Who wants some pie?”