Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 57
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂, Isabela ♀, Varric ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Dick jokes, oh my god Justice, oh my god Cormac, demons, wow damn you can say that in Latin
Notes: Carver’s got a giiiirlfriend, and no one is ever going to let him live it down. Oh, and there’s an elven apostate trapped in the fade.
"I don’t see why you insist on bringing me along. You know my opinions. He’s dangerous. Let him die." Mages. Fenris would never understand them, or the ridiculous lengths they’d go to defend each other, even in the face of something like this. Sominiari? There was nothing but for the boy to become a magister or to die, if the demons didn’t get him first. Death would be the kindest solution.
Anders looked over his shoulder, opening his mouth to reply, and walked straight into Cormac’s back, nearly knocking them both down the stairs. "What—?"
"Carver." Cormac pointed, something like amazement in his voice, to where his youngest brother was sitting under the vhenadahl, kissing Merrill. He elbowed Artemis and sputtered.
Artemis flailed back at him in reply. "Did you know this was a thing?" he hissed. "I didn’t know this was a thing!"
"Apparently it’s a thing," Anders said with a shrug.
"Mages," Fenris said, more of a sigh than a growl at this point.
Isabela wolf-whistled, startling the kissing pair, who turned to gape at them. Merrill waved. Isabela and Artemis waved back.
Cormac stared at Carver, in some mix of annoyance and bafflement. "You couldn’t tell us this? It’s Merrill! We like Merrill! All this time we thought you must have been dating a cross-dressing dwarf, that you were embarrassed to tell us — and Carver, if it was a cross-dressing dwarf? It’s us. We still would’ve been cool. That said, Merrill, I thought you had better taste than this. There are darkspawn more loveable than my baby brother. He’s lucky we didn’t just feed him to a troll, on our way out of Lothering."
"This? This is why I don’t tell you things." Carver jabbed an angry finger in their direction.
"Because I act like your older brother?" Cormac shrugged, wide-eyed.
Anders nodded. "I had one, once. I can confirm that’s really what they’re like, even when they’re not Hawkes."
"He’s kissing the blood mage, and you’re worried about her?" Fenris grumbled, rubbing his face.
"He grew up with three mages, and one of them was Cormac," Artemis told him. He paused. "Shit, one of them was Bethany. The fact that I was the standard of mage sanity in our family should tell you everything you need to know about us."
"All of which I already know," Fenris said, face pained.
"And yet you’re still here," Anders muttered.
"What are you doing here?" Carver called across to them. "Did you show up just to gawk at us?"
"No, just a happy accident," Isabela laughed. "But I’m happy to gawk however much you like. Go on. Don’t mind us!"
"You should tell mum, when you get home," Cormac called out, heading toward the house they meant to visit. "She’ll be thrilled. You know how worried she is about all of us being in ‘happy relationships’ and her hopes of ‘so many grandchildren’. I think she’ll be thrilled you still like girls, given the rest of us."
"Is Anton really… with the Knight-Captain?" Carver asked, still having some difficulty with the idea.
"Yeah, he really is," Anders answered. "We’re all still struggling with that one."
"It was worth it to see you in those Warden robes, Anders!" Merrill laughed. "You should wear those more often! You look so handsome in them!"
"Him!?" Carver demanded, gawking at Merrill and pointing at Anders. "That gangling scruffy mage?"
"I like tall," Merrill said, leaning her head on Carver’s shoulder, with a smile. "You’re tall, too. My big, tall master of swording."
"Oh?" Isabela purred. "How you two gotten to the swording already? I expect details, Kitten!"
Artemis made a face. "I really didn’t need to picture my little brother ‘swording’," he muttered. Anders and Fenris shot him twin flat looks that Artemis pretended not to notice.
Carver sputtered, ears turning red. He turned to his date. "Merrill, mind if we take this inside?"
"For more swording?" Anders asked with a grin.
"I’ll show you my sword in a minute!" Carver spat back.
"Ooh, that’d be three Hawkes for you, Anders," Isabela crooned. "Catching up with me!"
"Okay! Before I have to see any more swords than strictly necessary, let’s go help the nice lady get her son out of the coma, yes?" Cormac knocked on the door.
Arianni opened the door, surprised to see so many people standing outside. "You’ve brought so many," she said to Artemis, awestruck.
"My brother and I brought the very best. There’s no one we’d trust ourselves to more, and so there’s none we’d trust your son to, more than these. Yes, Fenris, I do mean you, too." Cormac pointed back over his shoulder as soon as he heard Fenris inhale.
"Come in," Arianni offered, stepping back. "Marethari is coming to perform the ritual that will bring Feynriel back. His childhood things here will help anchor him. She should arrive soon. Her letter said she would be here this afternoon."
"How is he?" Artemis asked as they filed into the small apartment.
Arianni’s gaze dropped. "Not good," she said. "It’s been two days since the nightmares took him."
Artemis wished he knew how to comfort her. The best he could do was pat her awkwardly on the shoulder and say, "We’ll do what we can."
They waited for Marethari in tense quiet, perching on Arianni’s simple furniture and leaning against the walls. Artemis’s staff bounced against the ground again, until Fenris stilled him with a hand on his wrist.
Anders nudged Cormac with his elbow. "You and your brother," he whispered. "You haven’t been in the Fade before, have you?" It hadn’t occurred to him until just then, seeing the nervous way Artie fidgeted.
"No Circle, no Harrowing, no Fade." Cormac looked downright grim for the split second it took him to conjure an imitation of a carefree smile. "But, hey, you’ll be with us. You’ve done this before." He pointed to Fenris. "He’s at least kind of done this before, and on a fairly regular basis. We’ll be fine. We go in, we kill demons, we bring the kid out with us."
"It’s … not going to be that easy. Demons in the Fade, they’re not like demons out here. They’re more powerful, so much more tempting, and they can be the things you least want to harm." Anders looked bitterly into an unoccupied corner. "Any one of us can turn on you. Probably not me, for obvious reasons, but you never know. And any one of us might not be us."
"Shit. That’s great. I bring my best, and I get you all replaced with demons. How’s that help?" Cormac rubbed his face, his other hand twitching around his staff, clenching and unclenching.
"I can tell the difference, but if you can’t tell I’m me…" Anders shook his head.
"I want to believe I’d know you. That I’d know my brother. You’re a mage, you know what I mean." It was almost like having another sense. Touching another mage gave an impression of the way magic passed through them, almost a signature. He had no idea if a demon could mimic that, but he knew what demons felt like, too — but, again, out here, where they had much less control.
"I was the only mage in there, last time. I really don’t know if it’ll work. Justice doesn’t know if it’ll work." Anders pressed his lips to Cormac’s forehead and took a deep breath. "I hope you’re right, though."
Artemis watched them from across the cramped room. He hid his nervousness behind a smirk and leaned in to whisper in Fenris’s ear, "They are so married and don’t even realise it."
That earned him a vaguely amused harrumph from his elf.
By the time Marethari arrived, Artemis wasn’t the only one getting fidgety. "I came quickly, Arianni," she said, placing her hands on Arianni’s shoulders. "I did not wish to tell you by letter just how grave your son’s situation is."
Well. That made Artie’s awkward shoulder-pat much more comforting in comparison.
Marethari turned to address the rest of them. "Who will be a part of the ritual?" she asked, skipping over any preamble. "We haven’t much time."
"We all are," Artemis answered. "Should make it more like a party."
Marethari didn’t respond to the weak joke. She turned back to Arianni and said, "Now, please. Excuse us. We need to prepare."
"O-oh," Arianni stammered, "of course." She bowed awkwardly and fled out the door.
"Did you just kick her out of her own house?" Anders asked.
"There is more for you to hear that is not for her ears," Marethari explained. "Feynriel cannot become an abomination. The destruction he would cause is unimaginable. If you cannot save him from the demons, you must kill him, yourselves. A death in the Fade will make him what your Circle calls ‘Tranquil’. He will be no threat after."
Anders looked like he wasn’t sure whether to commit murder or vomit on his shoes, but Cormac wrapped his arms around him, whispering in his ear. "It won’t come to that. You won’t let it happen. No matter what happens to the rest of us. I know you. I know you can see. I know you won’t let it happen."
Anders clung to Cormac with one hand and his staff with the other, not looking much better than he had.
"If you are all prepared, we will begin. Be certain of yourselves. You will all face temptation." Marethari looked sternly around the room.
Five heads nodded their assent, all grim-faced. Marethari nodded, satisfied.
"Let us begin."
The Fade reflected the physical world the way a shadow reflected its object. The shape was there but warped, with none of the weight behind it. The walls were stone, the floor was stone, and that seemed real and correct one moment, until Fenris looked more closely and realised that they were all different types of stone, melded in ways that did not occur in nature. The ceiling was somehow both solid stone and a spangled sky in a way that only made sense in dreams.
His tattoos burned and itched and didn’t glow when he commanded them to. But Fenris turned to see his mage at his side and forced himself to breathe.
"I HAD NOT THOUGHT TO RETURN IN SUCH A WAY." Justice’s voice had Fenris’s fingers twitching for his sword. "IT IS GOOD TO FEEL THE BREATH OF THE FADE AGAIN AND NOT THE EMPTY AIR OF YOUR WORLD."
"Merciful Andraste!" Cormac turned to find not Anders, but a ghostly gent in platemail. He scrambled back, holding his staff before him. "He’s turned into a templar!"
"TEMPLAR? WHERE?" Justice looked around, confused.
"I think Studly Do-Right, over here, is the real thing." Isabela, of course, was very interestedly examining their new companion. "Sad to see Anders go and all, but hello to those shoulders."
"I have very nice shoulders!" Cormac complained. "Is that you, Justice?"
This was not a situation he’d ever expected to find himself in. Face to face with the not-so-evil evil twin. Who, in all honesty, looked nothing like Anders. Or at least, he didn’t think Justice did. With the helmet on, it was a little hard to tell.
"You have very nice shoulders, for a mage," Isabela reminded him.
"I AM, YES. WE HAVE MET, BEFORE, THOUGH NOT LIKE THIS. YOU ARE WISE AND GENTLE, CORMAC HAWKE, EVEN IF I DO NOT COMPREHEND YOUR OBSESSION WITH THE FLESH OF MY HOST." Justice held out his hand. "I UNDERSTAND THIS IS THE WAY TO GREET SOMEONE FOR THE FIRST TIME, EVEN IF I HAVE ALREADY EXPERIENCED SO MUCH OF YOU, SECONDHAND."
"Oh, shit." Cormac turned colours he didn’t know he had in him, but he shook that hand, all the same. "It’s … a pleasure to finally meet … you. Well, you you. Not Anders you. I suppose I should apologise if we’ve completely put you off mankind, but to be honest, I don’t think we’re really going to stop doing any of that, and it’s pointless to apologise for something I’m going to keep doing."
"YOU KEEP HIM HAPPY. WHEN HE IS HAPPY, HE IS MORE WILLING TO WORK WITH ME. YOU HAVE ALSO KEPT US FROM DOING REGRETTABLE THINGS, AND FOR THAT I THANK YOU. I DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE IMPLICATIONS OF MY ACTIONS, UNTIL THEY WERE EXPLAINED TO ME." Justice seemed to be in a forgiving mood, and for that, Cormac was terribly thankful. "COME. I SENSE FEYNRIEL’S MIND STRAINING. WE WILL NOT HAVE MUCH TIME."
Artemis gaped after Justice as he passed, looking a little green in the face. He hadn’t even thought about Justice, the times he’d been with Anders, and it never even occurred to him that there was a spirit in there, waiting boredly for them to finish. He smiled weakly at Fenris’s questioning look and followed the glowy suit of armour.
A glowy suit of armour that was being followed by a floating book. It was one of those things that only didn’t make sense when he actively thought about. Isabela made a grab for the thing, and it swayed to the side, out of her reach. She reached again and failed again. The third time she reached, she feinted. She was trying to fake out a book.
"Like watching a cat with a ball of yarn," Fenris muttered. Artemis laughed nervously and force pushed the thing into the wall. It bounced back and smacked Cormac in the face.
"What the fuck? Who’s throwing books at me? Was that force? That was force. Artie, why the fuck are you throwing books at my head? Is this my demonic temptation? Not to wring my brother’s neck for beating me about the head and shoulders with forgotten tomes?" Cormac was nervous, and the more nervous he got, the bitchier and louder he got. "Can you maybe not throw books at me while we’re trying to save the world?"
"Sorry!" Isabela didn’t sound sorry at all. She sounded like she was plotting. Even in that one word. "Artie, you’re good at puzzles, right? Tell me where that thing’s going to be in fifteen seconds. Then wait another fifteen and tell me again."
"Puzzles, yes," Artemis muttered. "Guessing the behavioural patterns of an airborne book? Less so."
"Details," Isabela huffed, waving her hand. She pulled out a knife and got into a crouch.
"Is… is she going to stab the book?" Fenris asked. "Is this a test? Is the book a demon?"
Artemis stared after the book, watching it flap around the room. "There!" he guessed, pointing.
Isabela leapt, and the book went down in a flutter of pages, her knife sticking out of the leatherbound cover. "Aha!"
That time, Cormac actually turned around. "What are you two even doing? Do I need to raise your Hawke tally, Izzy?"
"They are stabbing a demon book," Fenris clarified, which made precisely nothing clearer.
"THERE ARE NO DEMONS NEAR US. YOU ARE PERCEIVING YOUR OWN DESIRES. HIS IS FOR GREATER KNOWLEDGE. HERS IS FOR A CHALLENGE." Justice didn’t have to look back, and Cormac wondered if the spirit needed eyes to see, at all. Probably better if he didn’t with that great bucket on his head.
"And what about mine?" Cormac asked. "What do I desire, and why am I not seeing it?"
"YOU DESIRE ANDERS. I REGRET THAT I AM UNABLE TO PRODUCE HIM, IN THIS PLACE, AT THIS TIME. HE WILL RETURN TO YOU, ONCE WE HAVE LEFT THE FADE, HOWEVER LITTLE I MAY WISH TO DO SO." Desire was a strange thing to see, in Justice. Most of all, a desire related to his own comfort, rather than the good of the cause. "BUT, THERE IS INJUSTICE IN YOUR WORLD, AND I HAVE SWORN MYSELF TO CORRECT IT, IN EXCHANGE FOR THE BODY OUR FRIEND HAS KINDLY SHARED WITH ME. DO NOT BELIEVE HIM, WHEN HE TELLS YOU HE IS WITHOUT WORTH. HE HAS DONE FOR ME A GREAT FAVOUR, AND FOR MANY OTHERS, AS WELL."
"Oh, I know he’s full of shit." Cormac clapped Justice on the back. "Tell me what’s in the book, later, will you guys? Or, you know, just read it out loud."
"But… she stabbed it," Artemis complained. "Through the pages. Stabbity."
"Oh, with enough time I’m sure you can glue each page back together," Isabela said with a sweet smile. "And you can still read most of the words. Especially these. Ooh, naughty Fade words!" She pouted, squinting at the words. "Hang on. I think this is in Tevene. Fenris, translate for us!"
She shoved the wounded book under his nose. He recoiled with a glare, ears twitching. "I can’t read," he snapped. Then he looked more closely at the book. "Oh, but there are… pictures. But that doesn’t even look physically possible. How can—?" He took the book out of Isabela’s hand and pressed the torn edges of a page together. "Ah. Still. That’s… interesting." He cleared his throat, gaze flitting to Artemis before skittering away.
Isabela looked over Fenris’s shoulder. "Pictures? Where? I don’t see any pictures. Here, I’ll read you what I see, and you tell me what it means. I can’t make out all the words, but I’ll pick out the parts that aren’t all stabbed through. Oh, here’s a word. Irra— Irum— Iro— What the fuck does that even say?" She was standing so close she would be Fenris if she were any closer, and she grabbed his hands to steady the book as she tried to read over his shoulder. "Irrumabo? Is that a word?"
Fenris’s ears turned bright pink and he choked, trying to cough and swallow at the same time. "What?"
"Ooooh! That’s a word! What’s it mean?" Isabela bounced insistently against his back.
"I must have heard you wrong. What did you say it was?" There was simply no way that word would be in a book meant to appeal to Artemis’s desire for knowledge.
"Ir-ru-ma-bo," Isabela sounded it out, again.
"Your accent is horrible, and you’ve got the accent on the wrong syllable," Fenris complained.
"What’s it meeeeean!?" she nagged, nuzzling behind his ear, just to be annoying. "I bet it’s something wicked, the way you won’t say."
"I will make you suck my dick," Fenris declared, and Isabela choked and coughed in his ear.
"Is that a promise?"
"No, that’s what it means! The word." Fenris shuddered and eyed Artemis desperately.
Artemis’s cheeks coloured at the way Fenris was regarding him. Fenris saying those words, with that sinful voice… He coughed into his hand. "I-I think maybe we should put the book away?"
"Oh, but this is fun!" Isabela wheedled. "Look at how fidgety you’re both getting! Artie, is this you wanting to learn dirty words for Fenris?"
Artemis made a choked sound in the back of his throat.
"Oh, come on! Let me teach you a few more!" Isabela bit her lip and squinted at a phrase towards the end of the page. "How about this one? Ped… pedica me cum tua—"
"Okay!" Fenris snapped the book shut and tossed it over his shoulder. "That is enough!" His ears were beyond twitching and on to the point of quivering.
Isabela ducked back and scooped it up, clutching it jealously. "Well, I know I want to know more of what’s in here, if it’s going to make you look like that!"
"Would you like to walk up here, with the relatively sane people, Artemis?" Cormac asked, not turning around, as Isabela started sounding out words again, between the occasional squeak and ruffle of Fenris trying to wrench the book away from her. He suspected from a few sounds that teeth might be involved. Whose and where, he dared not speculate.
And that’s when Justice stopped short, pointing as something very recognisable as a demon approached from the other end of the room. "DEMON." He wasn’t sure if anyone else could make it out, as such. They certainly hadn’t been able to determine the book wasn’t a demon.
"Well, it’s rare to see two forgotten magics in one day," the demon said, sounding more than a little impressed with their sudden appearance. "It’s usually a slow place, the Fade. Not many surprises. I wasn’t sure I’d like this one… but it has potential."
"A DEMON OF SLOTH," Justice clarified. "IT EXISTS TO MAKE MEN FORGET THEIR PURPOSE AND THEIR PRIDE — DO NOT RELAX AROUND IT!"
"As if I’m going to be relaxed, before we get out of this distressing impression of the damned Templar Hall…" Cormac muttered.
"Call me Torpor," the demon introduced itself. "I have a proposition that might interest you."
"Does it involve you fucking off and dropping dead?" Cormac asked. "Because that would interest me a great deal."
"But what about your brother?" Torpor swung its head lazily to focus on Artemis, who took a step back, angling his staff in front of him. Fenris growled and drew his sword. "Poor Artemis. You must be so tired, fighting it for so long. Trying to stay in control and always so afraid. Wouldn’t your life be so much easier without your magic? You could stop running, stop fighting. You could lead a normal life, and Fenris would never leave you."
No sooner had the demon finished speaking than Artemis shoved it back with a wave of force magic, strong enough to make his friends stagger. "Do us a favour and stop talking," he said with a brittle smile that didn’t mask the way his voice was shaking.
The demon straightened and let out a weary sigh. "Have it your way," it said.
Demons, as Justice had pointed out, were a lot less pleasant in the Fade, and they weren’t exactly sweetness and light out of it, either. Still, this was something they’d done before and they’d do again, pounding the demon and its attending shades into nothingness. It was, all told, easier than what they’d been through with Hadriana. It had, however, been a sloth demon, and not inclined to swift and brutal attacks.
Once they were sure this first assault was over, Cormac shouldered his staff and turned to his brother, holding out his arms. "Hey, c’mere. There’s nothing wrong with you. I keep telling you that. If there’s something wrong with you, there’s something wrong with me and Bethy, too, and you know we’re perfect." The grin that went with that punchline was a little sadder than it should have been.
"Don’t." Artemis was still shaking, grip tight on his staff. "Just don’t." Cormac understood better than most but not fully. His magic was all about protection, bolstering. Artemis’s was pure destruction.
"Mage," Fenris murmured, stepping in front of Artemis, touching his arms and then his face. He could feel Artemis’s jaw muscles working under his palms. "Amatus. I’m here. See me."
Artie scoffed, smiling weakly, bitterly. "I’m not panicking, Fenris," he said without looking up. "Can we all please just pretend this never happened? All right? All right."
"No! No, it’s not all fucking right!" Cormac turned away and stormed toward the stairs on one side of the room. "My little brother just got tempted by a demon, and there really wasn’t shit I could do for him, and by Andraste, I need a fucking hug. It’s not all fucking right!"
A patter of light footsteps sounded behind him, and then Isabela was on his back, legs wrapped around his hips, arms over his shoulders. "C’mere, Mage-Shoulders. I’ll give you all the hugs you want."
Cormac stopped, leaning on the wall. "Shit. I’m sorry. Thanks, Izzy." He patted her hand with his other hand, and just stood like that a while. "You— It’s just you, right?"
"The one and only! Probably for the best, really. I got nothing nice to say about the family." Isabela laughed. "I like yours much better. Especially your sister."
"Can we not talk about your deranged lust for my baby sister?" Cormac sounded a little strained. "I got enough going on here, without that."
Isabela reached down with the hand Cormac wasn’t holding and slapped his ass. "You’ve always got enough going on, right here!"
Cormac finally laughed. "Fuck a duck. Fuck a fucking duck, Izzy."
"But, why would I do that, when I can fuck a Hawke, instead?" She squealed and laughed as he pinched her, climbing off his back.
Artemis watched the exchange and conjured a smile for everyone, pulling away from Fenris, who frowned. He wasn’t going to think about it. He was going to shut off that part of himself and poke at it later when he was alone and his surroundings demon-free. "Shall we?" he asked Justice. "This has been a fun vacation and all, but I prefer the books at home."
Justice nodded. "WE MOVE ON," he boomed. They walked up the steps Cormac had started up and opened the door, the Fade shifting around them as they did, shadows melding and reforming.