Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 36
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂, Tallis ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S1 V2 D1)
Warnings: Stealing and stabbing
Notes: Tallis and Artemis get into trouble, get out of trouble, get into more trouble, and decide what kind of cake they’re getting after this.
Artemis stared at the shrubbery the two elves had disappeared behind, until Anders distracted him. Branches creaked and leaves fell, and a hundred tiny noises filtered out of the topiary. Lesser nobles counted each other, trying to figure out which of them had taken who into the hedges, but no one of notice was missing.
Minutes passed into more minutes, and the breathy sounds got closer and closer together, more intent, more desperate. Huffing and panting, after another minute or two, Fenris stepped out from behind the hedge, sweat-soaked, and still fastening the clasps for his sword. "No regrets," he said, turning to smile over his shoulder, but Tallis was already gone. It figured. They were here for a reason, and the reason was hers.
He counted Hawkes. There was Cormac, sucking face with Anders, in full view of the de Launcet girls. Anton had Isabela in his lap, still apparently telling tales to a giggling crowd. And Artemis… No. No, no. Where was Artemis? He looked again for Tallis, and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. She’d said Artemis was adorable. She hadn’t said anything about him being useful. Which Fenris didn’t think he would be, in this instance. What did Tallis intend to do with some fidgety, neurotic mage?
The bodyguard elf was a bit less invisible as he ran through the crowd, ignoring the disapproving looks of snooty Orlesians and the way his buckles didn’t sit right. He all but pulled Anders off Cormac by the hair.
"Maker," Anders cursed. "I’m not doing another spicy shimmy for Cyril, Fenris!"
The de Launcet girls tittered behind their hands, but Fenris ignored them and the Abomination. "Cormac, do you know where your brother is?" He didn’t know yet it was Tallis, after all. It might not be Tallis. Artemis might be inside the kitchen, rearranging silverware, for all he knew.
"Of course. He just went off with Tallis." Cormac shrugged. "Anton… I don’t think we could extract Anton short of gaatlok and a pair of prybars, and me, well, let’s just say the heir is currently of interest to some terribly noble parties with a not-indecent amount of sway. He was the best choice, if she wasn’t taking you. Why didn’t she take you?"
"I don’t know," Fenris grumbled. "I thought it would be. We’re elves, as she pointed out. Invisible."
Which Artemis really wasn’t, Tallis noticed, as they slipped around the side of the chateau. "Look, I’m sorry about your boyfriend," she said to him. "I didn’t know until he… well, let’s just say that wasn’t my name."
"Look, he’s not my…" Artemis’s cheeks flushed red, and he scowled at everything except Tallis. "It doesn’t matter. And please don’t bring it up again. This is supposed to be a stealth thing, and angry earthquakes don’t exactly scream ‘stealth’."
"Well, technically, anything that screams stealth is kind of missing the point." Artemis shot Tallis a flat look, and she cleared her throat. "Speaking of missing the point," she mumbled to herself. "Okay then."
Armoured footsteps clanked up ahead, and Tallis shoved Artemis behind a pillar. He peeked his head out, and she shoved it back again.
"Wow, you are bad at this," she hissed.
"What do you want from me?" he hissed back. "I usually just… shove my way through this sort of thing."
After an enormous amount of eye-rolling and yanking and shoving, they finally reached a stately chamber, with lots of pillars and bars. And as they stepped in, a portcullis dropped behind them. This was not on the list of things to do for the evening.
"This is… interesting." Tallis looked around the room. "There has to be a way out. No noble family of any good sense designs something that can’t be disarmed from the inside. Not if they want to live."
They tore the room apart, pushing and prodding at anything that might move, until finally they hit upon something.
"Hang on," Artemis muttered. He took a step to the left and felt the floor sink in under his foot. "Pressure plates?" He put all his weight on the plate, but nothing happened. "Well, now that’s just misleading."
"Hang on," said Tallis. "There’s one over here, too." She stepped, and there was the sound of stone grinding. A portcullis rose off to the side.
"Well, not the direction we want, but it’s a direction."
They continued in this vein, finding pressure plates, watching different combinations open different gates. None of them opened the vault or the way behind them. Tallis groaned. "This is ridiculous."
"No, no, there’s a pattern here," Artemis said. "Go stand on that one over there." Tallis obeyed, a gate opened, and Artemis gave her another instruction. She followed along, quickly losing track of what plates they’d pressed. They paused to slide statues over a few, and Artemis issued new instructions. Eventually they sank onto the last pair of pressure plates, and the vault ground open.
"Aha!" Artemis crowed. He grinned, utterly pleased with himself. "See? Sometimes it pays to be neurotic."
"I guess that’s his victory face," Tallis muttered.
Tallis helped herself to the contents of the chests to either side of the door, before stepping into the vault. "We’ve done it! The heart is ours! Or at least it’s not his…"
And that’s when the Chevaliers came in, behind them, Duke Prosper and his bodyguard, at their head. "Don’t fret, my dear," the duke purred.
"I see the party’s moved indoors," Artemis muttered, eyes flicking amid the assortment of guards, debating how hard it would be to knock them all on their asses at once.
"It’s not over yet," Tallis replied, spinning a dagger.
"Oh, but it is over." Prosper smiled, introducing them both to his victory face. "I knew who you were the moment you arrived, assassin. Prostitute, indeed. What kind of fool do you take me for?"
Artemis looked confused. "Assassin? I thought we were here to steal a jewel."
"Then she didn’t tell you." Prosper continued to look victorious as he waved his men forward. "The elf is a Qunari."
There was really no time to consider the implications of that, just that moment. Guards surrounded them, and neither one could fend them off fast enough, however many incredible wide-angle applications of Maker’s Fist Artie unleashed. They were quickly subdued and left in a cell, somewhere in the dungeon. Who would expect a fancy place like this had a dungeon?
If Fenris’s heart was racing, it was from all the running in circles, not out of panic, and certainly not out of worry. Why would he be worried? Artemis was grown man, a mage. A little off in the head, sure, but perfectly capable of looking after himself. Tallis he was sure was fine.
Left. It had to be left up here. Or did they go that way last time? He stalled, and Anders slowed to a stop next to him, swearing under his breath.
"That’s it, I’m taking the lead," said the mage, pushing past him. Fenris bristled.
"You think I’m going to trust you find Art — to find them?" Fenris called ahead.
"You’re the one who got us lost in the first place!" Anders threw over his shoulder as Fenris reluctantly tried to catch up. "Running in here like there’s a demon on your heels."
"One demon on my heels is more than enough," Fenris spat.
"Fine, I’ll just be in front of you, then." Anders stormed off down the hall. "Could you stop with the ‘all mages are evil’ diatribe, for just one minute, especially since you’ve had sex with the mage we’re looking for, and I know you did, because I was there for it at least twice?"
"All mages may not be evil, but some of them are especially annoying," Fenris grumbled, almost pleased that if they got lost again, it wouldn’t be his fault. "Particularly the two in question."
They came around another corner to find Tallis and Artemis standing in the hall.
"We’ve come to rescue you!" Anders announced.
"That’s very dashing of you," Tallis said, with a smile.
Fenris slowed to a stop next to Anders, relieved enough not to care that their rescue had been pointless. They looked a bit worse for wear, but Artemis — they looked like they were in one piece. "Are you…" Fenris addressed Tallis, even while his focus was on Artemis. "You’re alright."
"Just dandy," Tallis said, smiling, and Fenris nodded awkwardly.
"That is… good," Fenris said, Artemis catching his stare for one moment before they both looked away.
"Artie, look at me. Are you okay?" Anders’s hands danced down Artemis’s body, patting for damage. "Your brother’s so worried."
He didn’t feel the need to specify which brother. Anton was still being distracting. It was Cormac who had the time and space to be concerned, but he couldn’t break away from the de Launcet girls to come looking for himself. If he stepped out, all the interest would be raised, so he sent all those who could be spared.
Fenris’s gauntlets creaked as he clenched his fists, watching the abomination’s hands roving over Artemis’s body. He ignored Tallis’s sidelong glance.
Artemis winced when Anders’s fingers brushed over a sore spot at the back of his head. "I’m all right," he said, even as Anders’s fingers glowed blue with healing magic. "Knocked around a bit, but my skull is thick enough to take it." He sighed in relief as the throbbing in the back of his head eased. Anders’s fingers lingered, thumb rubbing soothing circles at the base of his skull.
"If you’re quite finished," Fenris said, tone clipped, "shall we get out of here?"
"This situation should change shortly. We’ll be missed before long," Anders said, smoothing the healing into Artemis. "Fenris is, for once, right. We should go."
He paused and looked around. "Does anyone know where we should go? I’m not sure how we got here." Jabbing a finger at Fenris, he went on. "He got us lost."
"I did not get us lost. You got us lost, mage." Fenris glared at Anders’s shoulder, willing the abomination to burst into flames.
"How did I get us lost from behind you?"
"Magic," Fenris insisted.
Artemis wiped a hand over his face. Of all the people his brother could have sent, he chose these two? "Right. Great rescue, everybody. I’m just amazed you two haven’t killed each other."
"So anyway," Tallis cut in with a nervous laugh. "I know the way out. There’s a passage down into the caves from the cellar. We can escape through there." She shrugged. "Or, you know, we could just fight our way through the duke’s army upstairs. That’s always fun."
"I’m sure there will be plenty opportunities to kill things later," Artemis said. Looking at Fenris’s scowl, he wondered if the killing would involve Anders. Or him. "Lead on."
The passage Tallis mentioned turned out to be little more than a crack in the wall, but after some shoving and cursing, they managed to squeeze through and into the tunnels.
"Ah," Anders muttered, "so glad I left the Wardens for this."
"Any time you want to go back…" Fenris grumbled.
The sniping continued as they moved through the tunnels, never quite loud enough to serve as a warning to anything that might be waiting for them. Not with the strange, hushed rushing sound that echoed off the stone around them. Fenris thought it might be wind against some opening to the outside… until they got to the bridge that spanned the lake.
"That’s a lake," Anders pointed out, a little hysterically. "I’m under a billion tonnes of stone, staring into a lake. This is it, isn’t it? I’ve finally lost it."
"No, that’s actually a lake," Tallis reassured him. "The Wardens put it in during the Fourth Blight, to provide fresh water for the refugees hiding in the fortress. This was a fortress, then."
"If you need proof of its reality, I’d be happy to arrange a closer introduction," Fenris offered.
"Could you please stop threatening the healer for five minutes?" Artemis muttered, rubbing at his forehead, where the barest headache still lingered.
Fenris shot him a look and opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, only to close it.
"Right. Anyway, everyone say goodbye to the lake," said Tallis, waving at the water as she led them deeper into the tunnels. Artemis wasn’t sure why he was still trusting her. Probably because the snarky idiots next to him had no sense of direction.
The dubious silence lasted until the portcullis dropped, cutting off Tallis from the rest of the group. "Don’t worry. I’ll be right back," she said, with a quick look over the stone and metal.
As she ran off into the tunnel, the duke’s bodyguard stepped out of a side passage, leading a group of heavily armed individuals who were clearly not there for tea and cake. Anders still offered.
"Oh, have you come to join us for tea? Nothing like a mountain over your head to add a little atmosphere!" A pained smile crossed Anders’s face. "I’m afraid we’re a little short on dainties. Funny thing, when you come from a dungeon, there’s not much in the way of cake."
He continued to prattle on, confusion spreading over the faces of the group facing them, as he showed no sign of shutting up. It wasn’t until the ground flashed green that they realised they had a problem. Anders continued to complain about the lack of cake.
Artemis smirked at the running commentary. Anders knew just how to set him up, keeping all the baddies frozen in cluster. Artemis drew in a breath and clenched his fist, and a wave of force flattened them to the ground.
The Chasind bodyguard staggered to his feet with a snarl, shrugging off the spell as he hefted a heavy battleaxe. "The Circle aren’t the only ones who know how to break a mage," he growled, only to find his hands full with a glowing elf.
"How do you feel about getting cake after this?" Artemis asked Anders conversationally even as he readied another spell. "You’ve put the thought in my head now." Another push of force shoved back part of the Chasind’s entourage, angled so that Fenris didn’t get caught in the blast.
Then magic hit that wasn’t his or Anders, a jolt of electricity of the un-fun variety searing through him and making his teeth clack shut. Great. He had mages.
Suddenly Tallis was there, somersaulting over their heads with a dagger in each hand. "Miss me?" she asked, throwing Artemis and Anders a smirk before joining Fenris.
Fenris kept his back to Tallis, busily fending off the Chasind warrior. "Only because I wasn’t trying to hit," he joked.
"Let’s definitely get cake," Anders said, sweeping his staff in front of him and raising a wall of ice through the opposing mages. "Maybe those little cream cakes with the strawberries in them. Hey, Fenris, strawberry cream cakes?"
"I don’t like strawberries," Fenris called back, as one hand left the hilt of his sword and plunged into the Chasind’s chest, squeezing the life out of the man, at last. "And I don’t like you."
"Can I have his cakes? I love strawberries!" Tallis kicked a frozen mage in the jaw and stuck her daggers in an archer’s back for balance.
"As long as I’m not stuck making silly noises over strawberry cream cakes, by myself!" Anders picked off another archer with a bolt of lightning.
A stone fist to the face finished off the last mage. "Oh, you won’t be making silly noises by yourself if I’m there!" Artemis rejoined. He shot a look at Fenris, who had stopped glowing and was shaking out his heart-squeezing hand. "Er. About the cakes, that is. Silly noises about cakes."
Tallis looked like she was fight back a laugh. "So cakes," she said, wiping off her daggers before sheathing them. "Strawberry cream for everyone except Fenris. What kind of cakes do you like, Fenris?"
"Ones I can enjoy mage free," he answered. Artemis winced as he slung his staff back over his shoulder. "Shall we move on?"
Anders rolled his eyes. "See if you get any cakes," he said.