I've been playing Dragon Age 2 more recently. I've come to terms with the fact that it isn't Origins, but now I'm starting to think that perhaps that isn't a bad thing. Despite its flaws, the one thing no one can fault Dragon Age 2 for is the fact that it makes you care about the characters, especially ones like Merrill.

Disclaimer: Don't own Dragon Age, Bioware and its EA overlords do.

It wasn't the life that Merrill had envisioned for herself when she had spent most of her life training to become Keeper of one of the proud Dalish clans, or even when she had lived with Hawke in his estate in Kirkwall, but being the wife of a farmer was special in its own little sort of way. It was calm and peaceful on their farm just on the outskirts of Amaranthine, away from all the hustle and bustle of the proud Warden city, but still also close enough to where it didn't take them that long to get to the city if they needed something from there. Although, the biggest plus had to be the nature of it all.

To Hawke's amusement and delight she would often stroll around their fields barefoot or tend to their animals by singing to them one of the ancient Elvhen songs of The People. In the early years their neighbors had found it odd, more so than just the situation of an Elf and a Human being openly in love, but over time most of them had learned not to say anything, especially due to the odd rumor every now and then that she and James had always made a point to laugh off, that James was a mage. The rumors had led to Templars visiting them on numerous occasions, every time leaving the Hawke farm, no relation to the Champion of Kirkwall of course, with a glowing impression that while the Hawkes were a rather unique bunch, that they were nothing but courteous and charming, and that it was preposterous that any of them were mages.

Of course, Merrill mused as she stared out the window of her home, the Hawkes were indeed a very magical bunch. She and James were both mages, as was their daughter Bethany, and Merrill had been suspecting that little Tamlen, the youngest of her three children, was also possibly touched with the gift of magic. Only her oldest son Malcolm had never shown signs of the gift, and it was something that she and James whispered about when they were sure the children were asleep. The lack of magic was definitely going to make Malcolm's life easier, well as easy as it could be considering that the rest of his family were apostates, his mother even a blood mage, but Merrill also knew that lacking the gift could perhaps make Malcolm feel like an outcast among his own family, even though she loved the boy just the same.

"Mother," the voice of a young girl complained, which caused Merrill to look back at her daughter, "can we eat yet?"

Merrill smiled and laughed, and waved her hand, all the while using her magic to make little sparks of people dance across the air. Little Tamlen laughed and clapped his 6 year old hands, adoring the sight, but Bethany simply rolled her eyes. Merrill couldn't help but giggle at that. "When your brother and father get home."

"They're taking forever!" the girl protested.

Merrill only sighed, and walked over to her daughter to rest a hand on her shoulder. "Then that's how long we'll wait, Da'len"

Bethany slumped in resignation, Merrill taking this as a good sign, but even though she didn't say it out loud she did agree with her daughter that Malcolm and James were taking a bit longer time than usual to get home. Sure, she didn't think that it was something that the mighty Champion of Kirkwall couldn't handle, but as a mother Merrill couldn't help but worry just a twinge.

She was about to go sit next to Tamlen to play with him and pass the time until Hawke and Malcolm came back home, since Tamlen always did love watching magic, but then right before she was about to move closer to the boy, she felt a tug at her skirt. She pet Jesse's, Hawke's faithful Mabari, fur and then she airily strolled to the back door of her home and went outside, Jesse trudging right behind her.

She had thought that James had forgotten to feed Jesse when he and Malcolm went off into the city, James always making it a point to spend time with Malcolm since his own father had sometimes made Carver feel neglected about his not being a mage, but as she stared at Jesse's food and water bowl, everything looked fine.

Not sure of what to do, Merrill scratched her head. "Are you hungry?"

Jesse barked in confirmation.

She thought for another moment. "And is that what you want to eat?"

Jesse happily barked once more.

"Then what's the problem?"

Jesse lowered his head and trudged over to his food bowls, which were rather large to be honest, and then he nudged one of the bowls with his nose.

She put a finger to her chin while she tried to decipher what Jesse was trying to tell her. She wasn't Ferelden so she didn't understand how to speak dog that fluently, but she had always felt that some of Hawke's ways had rubbed off on her over the years. After a few more whines from Jesse, Merrill slowly tried to translate what the Mabari was trying to tell her. "You want to eat inside with the rest of the family?"

The Mabari happily barked again, and Merrill sighed as she picked up the bowls. They were a bit hard to maneuver, but if Jesse wanted to eat with them then she didn't have the heart to tell the faithful dog no. To her surprise when she reached back inside the house with Jesse, James and Malcolm were home, except neither looked happy. Malcolm was standing at the door staring at his feet and James stood off to the side, face in contemplation. She set down Jesse's bowls near the door, and then made her way over to Hawke.

"Ma'vhenan," she said after giving James a quick hug and then moving to her son Malcolm. "is something wrong?"

She tried to touch Malcolm's face, but the twelve year old pushed her hand away. She wondered what had happened while the two of them had spent the day in the city, and then sent a meaningful glance over to Hawke. James nodded and rested a hand on his boy's shoulder.

James waited for a moment, hoping that Malcolm would tell Merrill what had happened on his own, but after a minute he sighed and decided to just tell his wife what had happened. "He got in a fight."

Merrill perked up at that, glad that it wasn't anything serious. "Oh, that sounds like fun!"

James only shook his head. "No, Merrill, a real fight."

Immediately, she tried to touch her son's face again, and when he tried to push her away once more she didn't let him. She lifted his chin and moved his face to the left and the right so that she could get a clear view of both sides. "He looks okay."

"He's not the one who got hurt," James sighed, "but he did break the Donovan boy's nose."

Merrill paused for a second as she tried to think about which one of the city boys that James was talking about. Once she recognized the name, she looked Malcolm right in his eyes for confirmation. "Little Elmer? Why?"

Malcolm simply looked away, not saying anything.

"He won't tell me why," James confirmed, "but neither did the Donovan boy. We went over to his parents to apologize to them, but they said there would be no need for apologies until after we got the full story out of them since neither boy wanted to tell the truth about what happened."

In response, Merrill began pacing in front of her husband and oldest son. If Malcolm didn't want to tell James what had happened then she knew that the only other person he would tell was his uncle Carver since he adored him, so she figured that she had to come up with something more clever. She stopped immediately when she realized that there was indeed someone in the room who could have possibly had an inkling as to what happened, and when Merrill turned around to look at her two other children, it was just as she thought. Tamlen was kicking his legs, bored, but Bethany was staring down at the table she was sitting at, looking guilty.

She looked back at her husband who nodded at her, and then Merrill walked over to her daughter and rested a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Do you know something about this, Da'len?"

Bethany looked over at her twin brother with a pained face and then back to her mother before staring at the table once again. "No."

Knowing a lie when she saw one, Merrill bent down and moved her hand from Bethany's shoulder to her face. "Da'len, tell me the truth."

Bethany sighed and mouthed the word 'sorry' to her brother, before looking her mother in the face. "Elmer called us knife-ears yesterday."

Merill frowned, always knowing that the children having an Elf for a mother was something that could cause them to be isolated from the other children of Amaranthine and its farmlands. To some of the Human children they would just be seen as Elves that lacked pointy ears, and to some of the Elvhen children of the land they would be nothing more than shems. It was true that a lot of children simply played with one another without dispute since Amaranthine was now a Warden city and the Grey Wardens had always had heroes of every race and background, but prejudice still existed of course. She thought of her children and even though all of them looked like Humans, the blood of the Dales still proudly flowed through their veins.

To her surprise, and the surprise of their two oldest children, James laughed when he heard what Bethany said. "Well then, boy," James said while patting Malcolm on the back, "I'm glad you showed little Elmer what is what."

Malcolm looked suspiciously over at his father and then to his mother. "Does this mean that I'm not punished?"

James looked over at Merrill who nodded furiously at him while smiling, the two of them having gained the ability to have entire silent conversations with one another ever since they had become parents, and then he patted his boy again on the head. "Yes, but I'm still taking you to the Donovans tomorrow for you to apologize."

"But he called me and Bethany knife-ears!" Malcolm protested.

"Yes," James began, "but his parents didn't call you that did they?"

Malcolm looked down. "No."

James nodded at his boy, and then looked over at Merrill. "Ma'vhenan?" he said, using one of the Elvhen words he had learned in his time with her.

Merrill looked at James suspiciously but playfully for a second since she had a feeling that he had something up his sleeve. She rubbed Bethany on the back for a moment before walking over to the front door to join her husband and son. She gave Malcolm a hug, and he was more receptive to her touch this time, before deciding to address Hawke. "Yes?"

"I was thinking that we should invite the Donovan family over for dinner tomorrow after we explain to them what happened, and that you could teach them and show them about Elven history? Especially that Elmer boy so he doesn't go off spouting slurs anymore. The Donovan family seems like nice enough people, but I don't think that any of them have ever sat down for dinner with an Elf before."

She didn't even have to think about her answer. "Oh, that sounds wonderful!"

"But I hate Elmer!" Malcolm complained again.

James ruffled his son's hair. "Well at least we know that you can beat him up if you have to."

"This is going to be so much fun!" Merrill almost sang while she practically hopped her way to the kitchen to finally serve her family their dinner. Right as she made sure that the food she had made really was done, she took a moment to look back at her family.

Bethany had begun arguing with Malcolm as he complained to her that she had tattled, James was playing with Jesse, and Tamlen laughed on as he jumped on his father and dog and began wrestling right along with them. It wasn't the life she had envisioned for herself when she had spent most of said life training to become Keeper of one of the proud Dalish clans, but as her heart warmed at the sight of her family, Merrill knew that she couldn't have been prouder of anything else.

I'm going to continue this for 3 or 4 more chapters I think. We'll see.