Title: The First Son
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Malcolm Hawke ♂
Rating: M (L1 N0 S0 V3 D0)
Warnings: Imploding templar.
Notes: Sort of a prequel to Rhapsody in Ass Major, so there are three of Hawke. Warning for gruesome but not terribly explicit application of Crushing Prison. Malcolm Hawke had always expected one of his children would be a mage. It was nearly inescapable, between Leandra's family and himself. But, he hadn't expected this.
That was the trouble with being a mage's son. Dad could use force magic to cheat at snowball fights. Well, that and the Templar problem, but… as far as the templars were concerned, Malcolm Hawke was actually a Rivaini mercenary. It had been working well for them, and Cormac knew not to talk about magic, in public. It upset people, and if people got upset, the Templars would come and take his father away.
He'd watched them take that elf boy, when he was seven. The boy had gotten frightened and frozen the well in the Alienage, and by afternoon, the Templars were carrying him off. Cormac could still remember the wave of emptiness that struck out from the lead Templar, before he seized the boy. A terrible sense that he'd lost something, even if he didn't know what, that the warmth had been sucked out of the world. He'd been distracted enough that when his friend Elissa had winged an apple at his head, a little later, it had connected, much to their surprise. Elissa threw things at him, because they both knew those things would almost never hit.
But, that day, the apple connected. Elissa stared in shock, and then whooped and took off running, and he chased after her, finally dragging her down in a puddle of mud. None of their parents were amused at the aftermath.
But, no one ever expected the truth. Not even him. Not even his father.
By the time Cormac was ten, he had a powerful distrust of Templars, having watched a handful of mages get carried off and one he didn't see, but everyone said she tried to use blood magic, and the Templars killed her in the street. He'd liked her, too. She sold flowers by the Chantry. But, the Templars came, and whether they killed her or not, she never came back, and that stretch of street seemed frighteningly empty without her flowers and her Antivan songs.
They were still safe, though, and that was all that mattered. He and his parents and his two little brothers.
One night, after his mother had gotten a letter, he heard his parents talking, quietly, in the front room. His mother sounded sad and his father sounded tired. Something about a cousin going to the Circle Tower. He didn't know any cousins. He didn't know he had any. He didn't have any, he supposed, if the only one he knew about had ended up in the tower. It wasn't fair and it wasn't right. And when he grew up, he was going to make it so the Templars would never take anyone away, again. He'd talk to the king and show him it wasn't right!
But, he was just ten, and no one would listen to him, yet.
And then the Templar showed up at the door, a few days later.
Just a man in big metal armour, holding his helmet under his arm. "Hey, kiddo. I'm Ser Tobias, from Kirkwall. I'm looking for a woman named Leandra Amell. Any chance she's your mum?"
"Why are you looking for her?" Cormac asked. Mum? That just didn't make sense at all. It was dad they were looking for.
"Well, there's a really bad guy we're looking for, and we just want to ask her a few questions. She used to live in Kirkwall, too, you know, and we heard she knew this guy a long time ago." Ser Tobias smiled.
There it was. It was dad. They were looking for dad. Dad who had taken Artie and Anton out to play, just a few hours ago. Dad who could come home any minute.
A sudden, terrible calm came over the boy, and he looked up at the Templar, eyes cold and empty. "No," he said. "You can't have him."
This wasn't part of the script. This wasn't what he was supposed to have said, at all, but he wasn't quite himself, suddenly. And he watched the words sink in, the look of recognition on the Templar's face, as he realised the dark-skinned boy in what he'd been told was pale-faced Leandra Amell's house was the equally dark-skinned apostate's son.
The Templar got no further.
"He's not yours," Cormac insisted throwing his hand toward the ground, in a fist.
And then everything pulled in. Cormac could feel it happen. The scream of collapsing metal was some strange music, a lovely soundtrack to the Templar collapsing on the doorstep, compressing down into a smaller and smaller wad of dripping red metal. The creases turned white and hot, and the air was full of the smell of burning blood.
Cormac just watched, until all was done. It was good and right. They were still safe. But, he could feel that power in his skin, winding between his fingers. Mage son of mage. Apostate, like his father.
When he grew up, he'd make them listen. He'd go to the king, and there would be no more Templars.
And then his father came back, leading Artemis and Anton, and saw the blood running down the steps, into the thankfully-empty street. Cormac saw the disappointment, first, and then the determination.
"All right, guys. Close your eyes." Malcolm smiled at the two sons he had with him, and picked one up in each arm — something of a challenge already, at their ages. "Go get a bucket of water from the pump, Cormac. Pour it down the stairs."
Cormac nodded, still strangely distant, even from himself. Everything sounded like it was happening on the other side of a waterfall. But, he did as his father asked.
Malcolm climbed the now less-bloody stairs and brought his younger sons into the back room. "You guys just play here for a little while. I need to talk to Cormac about something."
He knew it would come. He knew one of them would turn, eventually. He'd hoped it wouldn't happen — ten was near the far end, for a first manifestation — but the Amells had mages, too. It was almost inevitable that one of them would inherit magic.
He crouched in front of his oldest son. "What happened?"
"Mum's at the market," Cormac started, not avoiding the question, quite, but concerned about the gob of flesh and armour by the door. He pointed.
Malcolm nodded. "I know. We'll take care of it. I just have to think of how. Who was that person? What happened? Did they try to hurt you?"
"He said his name was Ser Tobias, from Kirkwall. Templar. He was wearing the sword." Cormac gestured to his chest, meaning the armour had been inscribed. "He came to make mum tell them about you. He came to take you away, dad. And then he died."
Cormac smiled beatifically.
Shock, Malcolm decided. And the Templars had found him through Leandra. Probably because of that letter from her family. He put the pieces together quickly.
"How did he die?" Malcolm asked, wondering if the boy even knew he had magic in him.
"I wanted him dead, so he died. He just squished up." The life came back into Cormac's face, if not into his eyes, and this smile was joyful and excited. "Can you do that, dad? Can you squish stuff like that?"
"Nope!" Malcolm tried to keep the mood light, for now. If Cormac wasn't panicking, yet, there was no sense in getting him started, until after the body was moved. "But, I used to know some people who could do it, when I was in the Circle. That's a pretty powerful spell, you know."
"Well, yeah! He just squished up!" Cormac sounded amazed.
Malcolm was also amazed. First manifestations tended to be extremely powerful versions of a spell of what would become, in most cases, a mage's primary school of practise. And while they didn't have to be the easy spells of that school, it was rare that one would be that far along the path.
"Just stay right here, and I'll go clean that up." He got up and found an old sheet, and struggled to load the body into it, until he realised there wasn't much use in not using magic, now. A touch of force did most of the work for him.
And that was another thing. For a moment, he'd thought Cormac had manifested Force. Pummelled the Templar straight down into the ground. But, the compression had happened on all sides. Arcane, not Force. At least that meant most of what he could do wouldn't be dangerous, by accident.
Maker's balls, why couldn't the kid have manifested something nice, like Creation.
Arcane. Which was why nothing ever hit him. Cormac had been manifesting for years, and Malcolm had never noticed, because Cormac still flinched and dodged, enough of the time that it didn't seem strange.
"Why don't you go get the shovel, Cormac?" Malcolm suggested, dragging the compressed Templar toward the back of the house, where the garden lay. "We've got to make sure no one finds him, until we're long gone from this place."
"We're leaving because they found us," Cormac concluded, going for the big shovel they used to clear snow, when it got too deep for the broom.
"That's right! But, it's an adventure, you know." Malcolm struggled to remain cheerful, but he'd been running a long time. Long before he'd even met Leandra. Long before he had sons to worry about. "We just have to stay far enough ahead of them that they don't take us away to their mouldy old tower. I used to live in one. They're no fun."
They moved the body out into the back, and Malcolm started digging. "But, we've got to work on your reactions, son. You can't just kill the templars, because then you're not just an apostate. Then you're a maleficar, and they won't bother to take you back to the tower."
"Like the flower girl."
"Just like her. It doesn't matter if she practised blood magic, for real. What matters is she lashed out where everyone could see, so they said she did, and they killed her. Mind, you shouldn't be practising blood magic, anyway. That's not even allowed in the Imperium."
Malcolm kept digging for a while, while Cormac watched.
"Dad? You don't have to pretend to be happy for me. I know you're not happy. I know you don't want to move. I don't want to move."
"It's not for you. Promise." Malcolm smiled sadly, leaning on the shovel. "It's for all of us. You can't let it get you down, or it'll slow you down."
Cormac tugged at the sheet, trying to dump the Templar's remains into the hole. "And if we slow down, they'll catch up."
"You catch on quick." Malcolm helped him move the body, and then crouched down to eye level. "Don't worry. Arcane powers are just as much for protection as for hurting people. I have some books. I'll help you learn how to handle this, how to do good things. Maybe when you're my age, things will be different, but until then, you've got to keep it subtle. Don't make the mistakes I did."
Cormac smiled. He reached out and ruffled his father's hair. "We're going to be okay, right dad?"
Malcolm's smile faltered. Cormac was still channelling the Fade, and his hand felt like lyrium. "We'll be fine. Hey, can you make that stop?"
"Make what stop?" Cormac looked completely confused.
"Arcanists channel the Fade a little more directly than other mages. It's pretty neat. I always wished I could do it, but I just didn't have the talent. Kept scorching my fingers. But, you're still holding on to it. It's in your hands," Malcolm explained, drawing on what his Arcanist friends had told him, when he was trying to learn it.
"Oh! The tingling! I thought — I don't know, I thought that was just what happened with magic, or something. It just started when … you know, and it never stopped." Cormac studied his hands. "I don't know how to stop it."
"Ok, let's try some things. We named your baby brother after one of my favourite Arcanists, actually. And Anton used to say he had to shake out his hands and give it permission to leave him, because it would stay until he either ran out of power to hold it, or until it knew he wasn't in danger any more. I think you're still scared, aren't you?"
"I'm not scared." Cormac shook his hands out in front of him. "I'm okay. You can go away now. We're all safe. Thank you."
The tingling started to fade away. "Is that better?"
Malcolm took his son's hand. "There you go. You have to be careful how long you hold on to your spells. They'll drain you if you do too much, and then you won't be any use at all, because you'll be passed out on the ground." He didn't mention that mana drain could end in death. Not yet. Passed out was enough deterrent, for now.
"Dad? How did your friend find out he was a mage?"
"Anton? Oh, he always said he panicked and knocked his sister across the room. She was trying to put spiders on him." Malcolm laughed. "Once we knew he was afraid of spiders, well, we could have been nicer. It was a good thing Ari was a healer, or he'd have really messed us up. We had it coming — and you remember that. If you're mean to people, they're perfectly within their rights to punch your lights out. And the same goes the other way. Just… use your fist, if it's in public."
"And don't punch Templars, because there are more of them than us." Cormac grinned and kicked dirt into the hole.
"Good point! Don't punch Templars." Malcolm stood up and picked up the shovel, again. "And you need to remember that you can't count on your magic around Templars. I think you hit this one too hard, too fast, but you can't count on that. You have to remember they can take your magic away. Not forever, but for long enough that they can get to you."
"Why does everyone hate mages, anyway?" Cormac asked, as his father filled in the hole.
"Well, to hear the Chantry tell it, there were once some very bad mages who were very powerful, and they tried to become gods. And they broke into the Golden City, where the Maker himself lived, and the city rejected them, turning them into darkspawn and their gods into archdemons, and the Maker was so saddened by them that he turned his back on all the world." Malcolm tossed a few more shovels of dirt into the hole. "Seven mages made an enormously bad decision, a thousand years ago, and we all pay for their choices. But, that's if you believe the story in the Chant. I don't know. I wasn't there, at the time. Your old man's not that old."
Cormac laughed. "Are you sure? You look pretty old to me."
Malcolm flicked a shovelful of dirt at Cormac, and to their surprise the dirt actually hit. But, Cormac had let go of the power. It was in his control, now, and that was the proof. Not completely in his control, but less likely to just hover around him, without an invitation. This was, at once, both encouraging and terrifying. He hadn't known the boy had a shield, but seeing Cormac without it worried him. It had never just been luck.
"Go check on your brothers and make sure they're not burning the house down."
"Why? We're moving anyway," Cormac joked.
"Because your mother would kill us if we lost her good table linens to a fire. And there is no magic to protect against the wrath of a woman with burned table linens."
"Well, see?" Cormac said, climbing the stairs. "You just said the house. You never said anything about table linens."
Malcolm shook the shovel at him, and went back to filling the hole. His son was a mage. What the shit was he supposed to do with another mage in the family? And two more sons, yet. Don't think about it Mal. One's a lot for any family. There was no way.