Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 54
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V3 D0)
Warnings: Violence, unpleasant conversations
Notes: Justice and Fenris actually agree on something, and Artemis gets to deliver that judgement.
"They did. What better way to find slaves than to steal them?" Fenris levelled a look at Anders that was nothing but distaste for the abomination’s idiocy. Mages. "The holdings outside of Tevinter have mostly been abandoned, but they still exist."
Artemis’s staff bounced against the ground, the wood making a hollow sound against stone. "Maybe she wanted to redecorate," he quipped. "Spruce the place up. Add a few flowers." The irritated twitch of Fenris’s ear told him this was a bad time for jokes, but ‘bad times’ were when he was most likely to make bad jokes.
Anton grabbed Artemis’s staff to still it and gave him a flat look. Artemis smiled sheepishly back.
"She’s not a flowers kind of woman," Fenris drawled. With a sigh, he looked into the cave and steeled himself. "Let’s hope this isn’t a waste of time."
They followed Fenris into the cave, and for a time, things were simple. A great deal of stabbing and lighting people on fire went on, before they came to a surprisingly well-lit room, occupied by a single nervous-looking elf. If the lighting was this good, they had to be getting closer.
Fenris approached the elf. "Are you hurt? Did they touch you?"
"They’ve been killing everyone." The elf looked frankly terrified, her hands fluttering around her face and neck. "They cut papa, bled him…"
"Why?" Fenris asked, not catching on. "Why would they do this?"
"It’s a demon at work," Anders put forth. "By this point, there’s nothing human left."
"The magister, she said she needed power… that someone was coming to kill her."
No one looked thrilled with this revelation.
"We tried to be good! We did everything we were told! She loved papa’s soup… I don’t understand."
No, Fenris thought, she didn’t understand, and that was probably for the best.
"Sounds like you’ve had a rough day," Artemis said sympathetically. The way her stare darted around and the way she scratched her arms as she fidgeted was familiar.
"Everything was fine until today!" she snapped at him.
"It wasn’t," Fenris said, voice soft and head bowed. "You just didn’t know any better." The way he said it, it made Artemis wonder if Fenris had been like this once. And that made him wonder at the pieces of Fenris’s life that were still a mystery to him, the gaping holes in his knowledge that were wounds in Fenris’s memory.
"Are you my master now?" the elf girl asked, eyes heartbreakingly hopeful.
"No!" Fenris sputtered, hands cutting the air in front of him.
"I can cook," she wheedled. "I can clean. What else will I do?"
"Hey, Fenris, can you cook?" Cormac asked, an idea slowly occurring to him. "Because I know Artie can’t. Sorry, Artie, but you can’t, and we both know it."
"I will not take a slave!" Fenris snapped, turning on Cormac in a blue glow of fury.
"I’m not saying you should. I’m saying you need a cook, and I’ll pay her. Belated housewarming gift." Cormac shrugged, but didn’t step back. "Get her going. If she wants to get a place in the city, later, we’ll help her out. But, she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and you do. And you need a cook. And I’m paying for it. Don’t make her go through what you did."
Fenris blinked at him, his blue blaze sputtering out. "Oh," he stammered. A job? That was…
"Of course we’ll hire you," said Artemis, putting a hand on Fenris’s arm. He and Cormac could bicker over who would be doing the paying later. "Please save me from his bad cooking." He indicated Fenris with a tilt of his head. Not that his cooking was any better. In fact, one could argue that it was considerably worse.
Artemis gave her their address and told her to meet them there. "Tell the workmen Artemis sent you," he said, "and that you’re there to design the kitchen."
"Oh, praise the Maker," she breathed. "Thank you!" She scampered off, back the way they’d come.
"That went well." Anton nodded, taking in the rest of the room. "But, I don’t like this place. The faster we’re out of here, the better."
"She cannot be far." Fenris’s hands twitched, and he shrugged off Artemis’s hand, stalking toward the other exit from the room. If Hadriana was here, he only hoped she was still as overconfident as she had always been. That she wouldn’t be listening for them. But, if Anders was right, there would be demons — real demons, not the washed out, whiny kind.
Another hallway, a few more turns, and they were beset by shades. Cormac wished they’d brought Bethany for this, if for no other reason than that she could tell when the things were poisoning her mind. He knew it was pointless, but he tried to stun them, anyway, in the hopes he’d hit something else hiding in the nightmare cloud. Ice. Freeze everything that you can’t identify.
Behind him, he heard Justice break free. "THIS WILL NOT STAND."
Of course, Justice would be able to see what was actually there. All Cormac had to do, then, was aim where Anders was pointing. That seemed like the best course of action, and after a few moments, Anton caught on, too. Justice would strike, first, and then Cormac and Anton would race in to finish that one, while Justice highlighted the next target. Fenris, however, would not be distracted from his need to find Hadriana, slashing through anything that came close enough to reach, as he squinted through the shifting gloom, nightmarish memories reflected in the clouds of shadow.
Artemis kept an eye on Fenris. The elf was being reckless, teeth grit in a snarl of rage, and he worried the idiot was going to get himself killed. Lightning arced through the air from his fingertips, bouncing from one shade to the next and lighting up the room in a constellation of magic.
"Hadriana!" Fenris roared. "Face me yourself!"
No sooner had they destroyed the whirl of shades than more sprang up, tearing through the ground, the air, the walls.
"Shit," Anton cursed, adjusting his grip on his daggers. Justice didn’t pause in his onslaught.
A female voice cut through the shades’ nightmarish wails and the sounds of battle. "I knew you’d come for me," a woman said, stepping out of the shadows with blood and magic dripping from her hands.
"That is a lot of blood," Cormac observed, doing what he did best and knocking the woman on her ass, before she could realise Fenris was travelling with mages. After all, who would expect something so ridiculous?
"We’ve got this, Fenris. You get her." Anton took down another shade, and pulled Cormac’s attention back from the magister.
"Artie, go help your boyfriend fend off the witch," Cormac suggested, eyes still on Anders, as he dodged and threw spells. "I’ll cover you both. She’ll have a real piss time getting a shot in, but don’t let him take any stupid chances."
On the ground, Hadriana was recovering her senses. "A mage? My, my. You just can’t resist that magic touch, can you, little wolf? But, you’ll be home soon enough."
Fenris snarled, blazing blue and charging her, his lines of tattoos burning after-images into Artemis’s vision. "I’ll show you ‘magic touch’," Fenris sneered, his sword arcing towards her head, only to miss by inches, glancing off her shield. Hadriana stepped back and to the side with a hysterical laugh that was as much fearful as mocking.
"Really, you’ve just saved me the trouble of finding you myself," she said, summoning another shade with a twist of her fingers. Artemis cursed and launched it back with a stone fist, herding it towards his brothers and Justice.
"Says the woman cowering in a bubble," Artemis replied, gathering force magic under his fingers, waiting for her shield to drop. "Fenris, you might want to step back."
Fenris shot him a glare, but before he could argue, Hadriana’s shield dropped, and she knocked him back with a bolt of lightning to the chest. Artemis retaliated by force shoving her back into the wall, hard enough to knock her out cold.
"Fenris!" Artemis raced over to him. "Are you all right?"
"Your brother is good for something," Fenris admitted, checking himself for damage. Not even a skinned elbow. Perhaps mages were good for something, after all. "Is this why you never manage to hit him?"
Behind them, the sounds of battle slowed, Cormac and Anton keeping up a running commentary.
"One for the pearl moon!" Cormac shouted, actually ramming his staff into the chest of one of the shades.
"One more for victory!" Anton called back, daggers sinking into that terrifying darkness.
"How many is that?" Cormac asked.
"I have no idea. At least five too many."
Both of them turned to handle the last one, but Justice took care of it, himself. The spirit turned his eyes to Hadriana, and Cormac stepped directly in the way. "Not yours, Anders. I know you want to, but this one belongs to Fenris. He’s the one she wronged. He gets to decide the price she pays, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be no less than the one you want her to pay."
"SHE STILL BREATHES. SHE CONSORTS WITH DEMONS AND SEEKS TO BEND MEN TO HER WILL, TO OWN THINKING CREATURES, AND SHE STILL LIVES." Justice was not happy with this turn of events.
"If she gets away from him, you can tear her apart, but for now, this is his party, not ours." Cormac wrapped his arm around Justice’s waist, stepping closer. "Nice work with those shades, though. Makes me want to have a very different kind of party, just you and me, when we get back home…"
"Get a room," Anton muttered, snatching up the last dagger he’d thrown.
Hadriana groaned, moving sluggishly, and Fenris pushed past Artemis and his hovering hands. He kicked away her staff as she reached for it, eyes hard as he hefted his sword one more time.
"Stop!" she sputtered, hand raised in entreaty. "You do not want me dead!"
Artemis raised his hand. "I do."
"There is only one person I want dead more," Fenris answered, voice shaking with anger, but his sword stilled in the air.
"I have information, elf," Hadriana said, still gasping for breath, "and I will trade it in return for my life."
Fenris scoffed. "The location of Danarius? What good would that do me? I’d rather he lost his pet pupil."
"You have a sister!" Hadriana was quick to say. "She is alive!"
Fenris hesitated, eyes uncertain. A sister? When… what? He had no family. Did he?
"You wish to reclaim your life? Let me go, and I will tell you where she is." Hadriana looked terribly sure of herself, once again.
"How do we know you’re telling the truth?" Anton asked, from across the room.
Hadriana smiled like a viper. "You don’t. But, I know Fenris, and I know what he’s searching for. If he wants me to betray Danarius, he’ll have to pay for it."
Fenris glanced to the mage at his side, at Artemis. Like he was waiting for an order, and wasn’t that an unsettling thought. "It’s your call, Fen," Artemis said, shrugging.
"So I have your word?" Hadriana purred, still smiling. "I’ll tell you, and you’ll let me go?"
"You tell me, and you will come to no harm at my hands. You have my word." Fenris nodded, eyes downcast, and behind him Justice glowed even brighter and more angrily.
"Her name is Varania. She is in Qarinus serving a magister by the name of Ahriman." Hadriana brushed Fenris’s hands off of her, and he let her go.
"A servant. Not a slave." He wanted that clarified.
"She’s not a slave."
"I believe you." Fenris smiled, raising his eyes from the ground, as he stood. "And, as I promised, you will come to no harm at my hands. My companions, however…" He shrugged and picked up his sword.
Artemis approached her, magic coiled tight around him, and he watched the hope die in her eyes. Good.
"Don’t!" she pleaded, eyeing her staff, still far out of reach. "Please! I can—!"
"Do shut up," Artemis said coldly. He clenched his fist, and a rush of magic crushed her into the ground, rib cage crumpling.
Anton winced and exchanged a look with Cormac. "Remind me not to piss him off," he muttered.
Cormac whooped with glee as the magister turned into pulp under Artemis’s ministrations. "You knew that about him. It’s why I was always on your shit to be nice to him, when we were kids. It’s also why you fell out of so damned many trees."
Next to him, the Fade sang out through Justice in an ecstasy of rage and victory that crawled through the bones of the mages. It wasn’t silent for Fenris, either, and he eyed Justice suspiciously.
Shivering, Cormac wrapped himself back around Justice, tugging him down to the side, whispering in his ear, and suddenly, the light went out, and Anders dropped to his knees. Cormac didn’t quite catch him, but definitely slowed the fall, and sank down with him. "Hey, there’s my sweet and beautiful charming mage-tart!"
"You invited them," Artemis reminded him with a shrug. "There’s a name for that, you know. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
He looked about for Fenris and found the elf already heading for the door, heedless of the rest of them. Artemis trusted Cormac to take care of his glowy boyfriend and went to look after his own. "Fenris?" he called, trotting to catch up. "Are you all right?"
"Why shouldn’t I be?" Fenris replied coolly, barely slowing.
Artemis grappled for words and found too many. "Well… crazy blood-wielding women attacking you and talking about your long-lost relations can be a bit stressful." Fenris shot him a glare. "Right. Shut up, Artie. Do you want to talk about it?"
"No, I do not want to talk about it!" Fenris snapped, finally wheeling around. "This could be a trap! Danarius could have sent Hadriana to tell me about this ‘sister’! Even if he didn’t, trying to find her would still be suicide. Danarius has to know about her and has to know that Hadriana knows."
"But, all that matters is that the bitch is dead. That you — you crushed the life out of her for me." The look on Fenris’s face softened, eyes damp, and he touched Artemis’s face, gently. "The exception that proves the rule. May she rot and all other mages with her. I have the only one that matters."
Artemis turned his head to press a kiss to Fenris’s palm. "I could point out that my mage brother and his mage boyfriend both helped you with this…" Fenris’s look darkened. "…but I am not going to, because I am a smart mage." Fenris huffed, but his smile was fond as the mage kissed him. His mage. His exception.