Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 68
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Isabela ♀, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Aveline ♀, Fenris ♂, Sebastian ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Violence, zealotry, Fenris’s mouth
Notes: Missing Qunari, trouble in the Chantry, bad news followed by worse.
Cormac’s desk was a disaster, as usual. Piles of invoices, messages from noble ladies he was not going to have tea with under any circumstance, a few notes from actual friends, account statements regarding the mine — he’d have to look at those, later, and go talk to the union steward again — and… there it was. A letter from the Viscount. Why it was addressed to him and not to Anton, he wasn’t quite sure.
Blah, blah, thanks for not letting the city fall to poison gas… yeah, this was actually for Anton. Missing Qunari delegates… that was… actually serious. Shit.
He caught up with Anton in the game room, cheating at kaisa with Isabela. "Anton, letter from the Viscount. It’s got my name on it for some stupid reason, but this is kind of serious. Serious like put on your nice pants, we have to go up to the Keep, serious. If we don’t fix this, there’s going to be war." He handed the letter to Anton and waved to Isabela.
"I don’t have to put on my nice pants, do I?" Isabela asked.
Anton threw her a wry look. "Do you even have any pants?"
"Sure, I do!" Izzy said with a devilish smile. "They’re just all on someone else’s floors."
Anton shook his head, smirking as he looked over the letter. That smirk slipped as he read on. "Looks like Qunari business, Izzy," he said, and her smile slipped too. "You should probably stay here in your pantsless glory."
Not that he knew why Izzy got squirmy around mentions of Qunari, but she did. He wondered if it had to do with her general pantslessness.
"All right, Cormac," Anton said, folding the letter back up. "Give me five minutes."
Anton struggled to keep a straight face, with Cormac and Bethany slapping at each other, behind him. Maker, what had he ever done to get siblings like this? They were at least pretending not to be mages — Bethy with her spear and Cormac with his glaive, today, and Artie just looked snooty enough that no one was going to ask. He stopped to talk to Seneschal Bran, holding up the letter, as they approached.
"Missing Qunari delegates, is it? You guys just can’t catch a break!" Anton looked something like sympathetic. He occasionally played cards with the seneschal.
"Yes, I am intended to assist you in this matter. Viscount Dumar would appreciate your discretion, as always." Bran shrugged, eyeing Anton somewhat balefully, especially after that last game. "I would prefer you were not involved at all, but that is neither here nor there."
"Oh, you love me, Bran. You’re just pissed I keep taking your money." Anton laughed. "Are we sure they’re really missing? That this isn’t just some stunt to give them a hand up?"
"Would Qunari stoop to treachery? There is no precedent, but there is unfortunate evidence of influence on our side." Bran picked nervously at his fingernails, a habit Anton knew well from their games.
"Still, I’m having trouble envisioning the abduction of a Qunari entourage. Especially quietly. How did no one see this? How did no one end up dead?" Anton shook his head, trying to imagine how that would even have worked.
"Unfortunately, they were not at their best. Their swords were tied into the sheaths, as I advised. It seemed a respectful compromise. Even I know you cannot separate a Qunari from his weapon." And there it was. Bran looked desperate, but subtly so. He’d gotten his position rightfully, but Anton whipped his ass at Wicked Grace for a reason.
"Well, shit. That’s not going to look good. Has anyone told the Arishok, yet?" Anton looked like he expected to be informed of the Qunari response, but…
"Maker, no! I’d be signing the messenger’s death warrant!"
"I beg to differ," Fenris objected. "There is no point in executing the bringer of bad news. It changes nothing, and it is unlikely the messenger is the responsible party."
Bran continued as if the elf hadn’t dared to speak to him at all. He was, even after all these years, not accustomed to elves speaking to him as if they had a place in the conversation. "He’ll find out soon enough, of course, and when he does, the viscount is rightly concerned the illusion of peace will dissolve."
"And somehow you have absolutely no idea what might have happened," Anton drawled.
"I have some concerns, but little evidence. This could not have escaped the notice of the city guard, unless they were involved." Bran’s eyes shot to Aveline, inquisitively.
"Have any failed to report?" she asked, trying very hard not to take offence at the implication.
"Several. I have a list of names. You might start with them." Bran handed over the list and stepped past Anton to look out over the floor below. "Although where you would find a swordsman so eager to sell his honour and duty, I’m sure I don’t know."
"The Hanged Man," Anders piped up.
"Hanged Man," Fenris agreed.
"Bit obvious, really," Bethany sniffed. Anton nodded.
"Right," Bran huffed, shaking his head as he turned back to face them. "Then you know what to look for. I can’t imagine this has occurred without notice. There is always a weak link."
"Hanged Man it is," Anton said brightly, nudging Artie’s elbow with his. "We can say hello to Varric while we’re there. He still owes me a drink from that last game of Wicked Grace." To the Seneschal, he said, "Don’t worry, Bran. We’ll have this taken care of before you can say ‘Viddathari’."
Bran caught Anton’s arm as he turned to go. "Please keep this quiet," he said in a low voice. "The Viscount is under enough scrutiny as it is."
"Oh, you know me, Bran. I am the very model of discretion."
The Hanged Man was as busy as it ever was, and one man — one Aveline recognised — stood by the bar, buying rounds. "That’s Orwald," she muttered to Anton.
"That’s a lot of coin, for this place," Anders pointed out, to no one in particular, but the man at the bar — Orwald — turned to answer, all the same.
"That’s right, pal. Tonight I’m paid and blessed, and all I had to do was turn my head." Orwald snatched up the bottle as Corff placed it before him and crossed to a few other men sitting at one of the tables. "To all my friends," he toasted, holding up the bottle.
Anton stepped up behind him, Aveline close by his side, but before he could speak, Orwald spotted him.
"Hey, you, step back! I know important people in this city. We’re going to show this city what we do with heathen oxmen!"
Anton smiled widely and rolled his head to the side, blinking up at Aveline. "Guard Captain! Would you like to have a word with your man? He seems a little confused about how things are done in Kirkwall."
"Guard Captain?" Orwald finally looked nervous.
"Who?" Aveline demanded, shoving Anton out of her way.
"What?" Orwald sputtered and backed away.
Aveline grabbed him by the shirt-front, pushing him back against a table and leaning threateningly over him. "Who?"
"I — I don’t know what you’re talking about!" Orwald insisted, eyes darting around for an escape route. "Who what? What are you talking about?"
Bethany giggled and fished a lemon sweet out of her bag, popping it into her mouth. "She’s good! Look at that! Five silver says he wees himself," she said to Fenris.
"He’s lost control of his mouth, but I doubt that will reach his bladder. You’re on." The corner of Fenris’s mouth tipped up in a tiny smile. He really should have been more afraid of Bethany, he knew, but other than the time she dropped him in the fire — which was at least partly his fault for lunging over it, like a fool — she’d never treated him much differently to her brothers. Well, okay, the one talk they’d had about Artemis, in which she’d threatened to make his time in Tevinter seem like a pleasant dream, but he could hardly hold that against her. He would have made very similar threats on Artie’s behalf. He had made very similar threats on Artie’s behalf. He found it odd, sometimes, how much Bethany and Artemis looked alike, given how different the other three looked to each other.
On the other side of the room, Aveline was still snarling. "Who bought you? Who bought the honour of a proud guard of Kirkwall and turned him into a drunken mabari bitch?"
"I don’t— I don’t know." Orwald’s voice firmed up a little, and Bethany thought she might lose a few silver, tonight. "He was a templar. I swear! He had the seal of the Grand Cleric and everything!" Ah, there was the panic. "It’s true!"
"The penalty for abandoning your post is ten days on the wall. I expect you to report in the morning." Aveline let go and straightened up, and Orwald took a moment to cower and whimper, before he ran off, the inside of one trouser leg suspiciously dark.
Bethany held out her hand. "Told you."
"What is he even doing on the guard, if that’s his response to a threat?" Fenris grumbled, fishing a few coins out of the cuff of his gauntlet, and slapping them into Bethany’s palm.
"He’s drunk," Bethany pointed out. "That always helps, one way or the other."
"There’s your answer," Aveline told Anton, "a templar."
Cormac grabbed Anders’s arm and bounced excitedly against his side. "We’re gonna hunt some templars! We’re gonna hunt some templars!"
"And with the Grand Cleric’s seal, no less," Anton mused, not really liking where this was going. "Good catch. Pint, before we head out?"
Anders flickered blue, a genuinely unpleasant smile on his face, as he caressed Cormac’s cheek, fondly. "They will never harm another mage again," Justice’s voice was quiet, but it shivered through Cormac’s bones.
"Please let us have a drink, before we set out, my darling blue mountain of malice?" Cormac purred, batting his eyes. "Just one, I promise. I won’t get you drunk."
"I am not malicious!" Justice insisted, looking entirely put out. "I am—"
"You are Justice. Yes. I apologise. ‘My darling blue mountain of justice,’ I should have said," Cormac’s smile was still mischievous and eager. "Just one. I know you both can handle one. It’s a celebration, before we go into battle."
Justice grumbled. "One. One drink." The blue faded away, and Anders wobbled a bit.
At Fenris’s suggestion, they took a detour into the Qunari Compound before the templar-hunting fun could begin.
"The Arishok will find out before long anyway," he said. "It is better that he hear it from us first. The seneschal’s cowardice would not endear us to him."
"Oh, I love it when you talk politics," Artemis purred, hooking an arm through Fenris’s. Anders threw him a pained look, and Artie rethought that statement. "Well. Qunari politics. Not about mages, and — say something dirty in Qunlat!"
"Please don’t," muttered Aveline.
They gathered in front of the Arishok’s throne, war-painted Qunari watching them from all sides. The Arishok narrowed his eyes at them, leaning forward with his forearms on his knees. "What do you want, Hawke?" he growled, eyes on Anton indicating which Hawke he was referring to. "I have no interest in adding to my distractions."
"It’s good to see you too," Anton said with a bright smile. "You’re looking well! Have you been polishing your horns?"
Fenris dropped his face into his hands.
The Arishok’s eyes narrowed further, turning to slits. "I trust you did not come here to exchange pleasantries, Hawke? If that is what you can call this."
"Unfortunately, no," said Anton, expression sobering. "Much as I enjoy your company. I understand you sent a delegate to see the viscount?"
The Arishok sat back. "A brief attempt to educate," he said. "If the dwarf had stolen the saar-qamek, it could have been used to show the price of greed." He scoffed, shaking his head. "But you know the outcome of that. These fools are determined to be wrong. I won’t waste the effort again."
Anton glanced at Fenris, who nodded. He squared his shoulders and said, "Then I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Arishok, but the delegate and his guards are missing."
Clawed hands clutched at the throne’s wooden arms, the Arishok’s nostrils flaring in barely suppressed anger. "Anyone else," the Qunari grated out through his teeth, "and those words would have been their last. You will handle this? Not your buffoon of a viscount?"
Well, no murder yet. That was always a good sign. "I will," said Anton. "I am. You are in Kirkwall’s most capable hands."
"I fear that is not saying much," replied the Arishok. "I will wait. But know this." He straightened in his seat, strong chin at an imperious angle. "The provocations we have suffered have worked. If this is not resolved, I can fulfil my duty to the Qun with far less annoyance by sifting through rubble."
A wave of his hand indicated they were dismissed.
Next to Anton, Aveline huffed. "As if there wasn’t enough pressure," she said to him under her breath.
Anders insisted on confronting the Grand Cleric about her seal, before charging off in pursuit of unnamed templars, however much he might enjoy just killing them all. Coming into the Chantry, they found Sebastian attending to his usual duties, which as far as Anders was concerned appeared to be lighting candles and singing silly songs. Bethany explained the situation to him, as they walked across the enormous atrium.
"But, the man was a drunk! You can’t possibly think Grand Cleric Elthina had anything to do with funding zealots!" Sebastian protested, as Anton climbed the stairs.
"It’s a careful chat about missing Qunari. Nothing more." Anton grinned over his shoulder. "Just a friendly chat about the grave troubles in our city."
Bethany smiled and patted Sebastian’s arm. "Just be glad it’s Anton. We could have decided to let Cormac do the talking."
"Hey, I resemble that remark!" Cormac reached up and flicked one of the sticks holding Bethany’s hair.
"Keep an open mind, Anton. Elthina isn’t behind this," Sebastian insisted.
"The Grand Cleric, please," Anton said to the woman kneeling in prayer. "Tell her… Tell her it concerns the Qunari."
The woman bowed silently and left the group of them to wait, as she went off to find Elthina. A more familiar cleric appeared in her stead, turning around from where she stood over a book on the lectern. "Serah Hawke."
"One of them, yes. If it isn’t Sister Petrice!" Cormac looked less than entirely thrilled, as he stepped to his brother’s side, putting himself between Anders and this particularly irritating cleric.
"Mother Petrice. Time has changed us both, I see, but it’s done nothing for your beard." Petrice looked terribly sure of herself.
"I rather like his beard!" Anders called out, from behind everyone else.
"My beard is a work of art," Cormac declared. "But, don’t mind us. We’re just here to speak with the Grand Cleric."
"Grand Cleric Elthina cannot grant an audience to just anyone. What is this about?" Petrice asked, and Bethany gritted her teeth. Not in front of Sebastian.
"It’s funny how you and issues with the Qunari seem to go hand in hand." Cormac smiled blandly and blinked a few times.
"And you always assume their side," Petrice retorted. "I was naive, when last we met. I did not want you dead, but I felt a death was necessary. That may be too fine a point for you to understand, but you must admit, you came out the better for it."
"I must admit nothing. What I will admit is that a templar may have overextended himself, using the Grand Cleric’s seal in an unintended fashion. In pursuit of valour, many a young man makes questionable judgements." Cormac decided to fall just on the side of generosity, knowing his words would be taken as exactly the jab they were meant to be.
"I assure you the templars would never embarrass the Chantry, at the risk of the Knight-Commander’s wrath." Petrice tipped her chin up, dismissively.
"Men were hired for the righteous task of kidnapping a Qunari delegate," Anton put in, and Petrice just glowered for a long moment. "A pause that says you knew. But, does Her Grace?"
"The Grand Cleric trusts her stewards to enact the wishes of the Maker." Petrice did not waver.
Cormac and Anton looked at each other.
"Naughty girl!" Cormac purred, with the wickedest smile he could muster.
"It sounds like you’ve been bad," Anton agreed, hardly looking more sympathetic. "What will Her Grace say about this, I wonder?"
Petrice scowled, the crease between her eyebrows deepening. "Stubborn," she muttered, shaking her head. Lifting her chin, she approached, not noticing the way Anton reached for the knife up his sleeve, just in case. "All right, Serah Hawke," she said to him, adding a glare in Cormac’s direction, "if you won’t abandon this, let me offer you something. The templar you seek is a radical who has grown… unreliable. Confronting him may do us all a favour."
"I’m sure," Artemis muttered under his breath.
Anton folded his arms across his chest. "And what is he to you, exactly?"
"He is my former bodyguard, Ser Varnell."
"Ah yes, Ser Varnell," Anders said with a cheerful smile. "I remember him. Charming fellow."
Petrice turned her icy look in Anders’s direction before dismissing him as inconsequential. "Assume what you wish," she said, "but I offer him to you as… reconciliation."
Anton kept his expression cheerfully neutral, drawing on all his practice playing Wicked Grace. Pointing the finger at someone else as ‘reconciliation’? That sounded about right. "I’d say templars aren’t really my type, but I’d be lying," he said.
Petrice’s lip curled at the comment, and she handed him a slip of paper. "Meet me at this location," she said. "I invite you, Serah Hawke. Come see the unrest the Qunari have inspired." She turned and headed back towards the candlelit altar.
Artemis exchanged looks with his brothers and sister. "Oh, this can’t possibly end well," he said.
"Nice place for a rally," Anders observed, cattily, as he followed the Hawkes into Darktown. "Good choice, Varnell."
"Petrice is here, somewhere," Cormac pointed out.
"Wonderful," Anders sighed.
They followed the sound of zealotry, Varnell’s voice leading them ever closer to his rally. "Qunari hold no real power. They areabsent inthe eyes of the Maker." The words were difficult to make out, until they came around the last wall.
"Like any beast, remove the fangs and it is lost. They are weak before the faithful of the Maker. The only certainty in their precious Qun is death before the righteous." Varnell punched a chained Qunari in the stomach, and the horned warrior glared down at him.
"Ser Varnell!" Petrice charged past the Hawkes and their companions.
"Take a knee, faithful, the Chantry blesses us," Varnell invited them.
"You claim a blessing when you have used the authority of the Grand Cleric so openly? You have brought wrath down upon you. You remember Serah Hawke?" Petrice strutted before Varnell. "The Qunari have friends, Templar. How will you answer their allegations?"
"Picking on a man in chains?" Anton tutted disapprovingly.
"Of course he is," Anders drawled, from the back, "he’s a Templar, isn’t he?"
"And you, Petrice? Pot, kettle?" Cormac gave a broad shrug. "Seems like a Kirkwall tradition, at this point. Everyone’s taking advantage of Elthina."
"Never mind the Granny Cleric." Fenris waved a hand. "This man is trying to start a war with the Qunari. Something I believe Sister Petrice has also attempted. As the Tevinter in your midst, let me remind you what a poor idea that actually is. The Imperium failed to retake the Marches after the blight, because of the Qunari. Kirkwall is unto itself, because the Imperium cannot spare the men to take it back, because of the Qunari. Is this a war that sounds wise, to you?"
"Grand Cleric, Fenris," Bethany pointed out.
"I know that. She just seems very … grandmotherly. Had I a grandmother, I would want one like her. Granny… Cleric." Fenris squinted at Bethany, in annoyance, one ear twitching. "Shut up, little sister. The point still stands. Starting a war with the Qunari is an idiot venture, and this man is clearly an idiot."
"Man’s got a point," Anders agreed. "You’re an idiot, Varnell."
"And where’s the Maker’s grace that you’d beat a man unarmed and bound?" Cormac asked. "If this is what the Chantry’s come to, conversion looks more and more like a good decision!"
"I don’t think you’d much like the Qun, Cormac," Fenris reminded him.
"Who said anything about the Qun? I’ve heard the elves have an amazingly accepting pantheon." Cormac grinned over his shoulder.
"Back to the point here," Anton said, "you’re an idiot. You’re an idiot with a very large problem that’s about to become serious. There are two ways out of this. You can give us the Qunari and scurry back to your hole, or we can kill you and take them home. Either way, the Qunari is coming with us."
Bethany waved to the chained warrior behind Varnell. "Hello! We’re here to rescue you!"
Varnell sneered, turning to slit the Qunari warrior’s throat, all in one motion, before he dropped screaming to the ground, and his entourage charged the Hawkes. Confusion reigned, as Bethany laid wave after wave of hexes and delusions on the approaching horde, and Anders started sticking them to the ground.
"It’s like stabbing fish in a barrel!" Anton laughed and started weaving between the frozen ranks, slitting throats.
Artemis stopped a casting of Maker’s Fist mid-gesture, magic stuttering out awkwardly. "Maker dammit, Anton!" he cursed. "You’re in the way!"
"Am not! Use a different spell!"
Artie switched gears and sent out a branch of lightning instead, lighting up the tunnel as it bounced from body to body. "Next time I’m just smacking you into the ground too!" he shouted.
"And this is why we have a healer," Aveline called back, a spray of blood painting a line across her shield.
The battle was quick, if bloody. Aside from Varnell, these were zealots, not warriors, and they were mowed down in a matter of seconds. Varnell would have given them more trouble, Anton suspected, if they hadn’t brought Bethany along. The man was a screaming, flailing mess on the ground, fingers scrabbling at his head, while Bethy just watched, smiling sweetly.
Fenris put the templar out of his misery with a heavy chop of his blade. He knew what it was like to be at the other end of that spell, and the thought made him shudder. He pointed his sword at Bethany.
"You?" he said. "Are a frightening woman."
Artemis muttered something about Cormac getting blood on him again as Anton looked about. None of the dead bodies looked like Petrice. Damn.
"Did Petrice run off?" Anton asked, wiping off his knives on the sleeve of a new corpse. "She ran off, didn’t she? Maker, she’s good at that. And this is coming from me."
"You say the sweetest things, Fenris." Bethany winked and blew a kiss, before taking a quick look around for Petrice. "I don’t hear any screaming. I think she’s gone."
"None of these bodies look familiar," Anders confirmed. "This is the second time. I’m not looking forward to the next time she tries to bring the Qunari down on us — because she will try again. You know she will."
"We’ll take this to the viscount. Unfortunately, she covered her ass a lot better, this time. It’s not going to be enough." Cormac shook his head. "Still, we’ve got to clean up this mess, before we break anything else. Aveline, why don’t you and Anton go tell the viscount what’s happened. He’ll probably want Bran to come down and look at the damage. I don’t want anyone — Petrice, in particular — moving shit around down here, until one of his representatives has seen it."
Aveline nodded. This was also part of being Guard Captain, she knew, being the bearer of bad news. Anton had been summoned to handle this, and between the two of them, the truth would be difficult to dispute. There was some wisdom, she thought, in not bringing along any of the mages, since this had been, at least nominally, the doing of a templar.
They returned with the viscount, himself, who looked none too thrilled with what he found. "Madness… Madness!" Viscount Dumar turned in a circle, taking in the bodies, the angles of the battle.
"Yes, Excellency," Anton replied.
"Chantry involvement! Even if they are fringe elements. It could not be worse." Viscount Dumar paused, for a long moment, head down. "You killed them? All of them?" he asked, finally.
"A mother serving the Grand Cleric allowed this to happen," Anton explained, gesturing to the floor and looking pointedly at the viscount. "We did not find her body among the fallen."
The viscount cast a sharp eye on him. "Are you quite sure? She held a blade with them? Told them to fight you?"
"No, I cannot say that." Anton glanced at his siblings for help.
"No, of course not…" Viscount Dumar sighed and gestured frustratedly. "A blasted Mother… You have no idea the storm these allegations would cause. They would destroy what little support I do have."
"We’ve had trouble with her before," Cormac said. "She’s slippery as a wet fish."
"Slicker than a greased elf," Anders agreed, cursing quietly when Fenris kneed him in the ass.
"I understand," said the viscount, nodding. "I will make my inquiries. Gently. And you should be careful in your associations. For now, we have other problems." He glanced at the Qunari corpse beside him. "I have the delegate, but I can’t return the body to the Qunari in this state. Serah Hawke, you know the Arishok. What should I do?"
"You need to tell him what’s happened. Take responsibility for solving the problem, as best you were able," Fenris suggested, still lurking irritatedly behind Anders.
Anton nodded. "I agree. You can’t hide this. That would only make this worse, and the last thing this situation needs is worse."
"It would, wouldn’t it. I’m losing my sense of how to balance this nightmare." Viscount Dumar rubbed his face. "I appreciate your help in this matter. As bad as this is, it could have been much worse without you. Kirkwall owes you. I owe you."
"Careful, Viscount, Anton’s the kind of guy to take you up on that," Cormac warned.
"Can you not be a dick for ten seconds, Cormac?" Anton rubbed his fist against his forehead, and then looked back at the viscount.
"What my brothers mean to say, of course, is that we’re happy to help." Bethany stepped out from amid the group, still strangely spotless, for all the blood around them. "The Hawkes are always available for the good of Kirkwall, and thus, we are at your service, Excellency." She curtsied like she was meeting the Empress of Orlais.
"Is that your sister?" Viscount Dumar asked. "I like her already." He nodded deeply to Bethany. "A pleasure doing business, young lady. Your brothers would do well to follow your example."
"Thank you, Excellency. Have you brought enough of your guard, or shall we see you back to the Keep? One never knows in delicate situations like these."
"Guard Captain, your office is near mine, isn’t it? It’s a lovely day for a walk." The viscount smiled at Bethany and waited a moment for Aveline to join him. "I will trust you to inform the Arishok, Serah Hawke, since you seem to have his trust, as well."
Anton sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Always ‘Serah Hawke this’ or ‘Serah Hawke that’," he muttered once the viscount had left.
"To be fair, there are five of us," Artemis replied. He met his brother’s look with a shrug.
"So," rumbled the Arishok, "you could not rescue my delegate, but you killed those responsible." His eyes narrowed, clawed hand gesturing expansively as he asked, "How do you explain the condition of their bodies?"
The Arishok spoke in the same measured tone as always, but Anton could read the strain in his shoulders, in the clenching of his jaw. If this were a game of cards, it was the sort of body language Anton would have exploited. Right now, it was the sort of body language that Kirkwall was going to be fucked, sooner or later.
"Insanity," Anton answered. "That’s how I explain it. The same kind of insanity as that elf with the saar-qamek. A fanatic used them to incite others of his kind."
Anton held his breath. Here came the explosions, the rush of anger —
The Arishok nodded. "I accept that," he said, sitting back.
"You… accept that?" Anton repeated.
"I have seen every vice and weakness of your kind — and how few of you take responsibility," the Arishok explained, expression stone-still. "Your viscount remains a fool, but you are not. Panahedan, Hawke. I will keep one good thought about your kind."
As they turned to leave, Fenris fell into step beside Anton. "I hope you realise that’s as close to a compliment as a Qunari gives a human," he said.
"Is it?" Anton asked wryly, eyebrow quirking. "‘Not a fool’. High praise indeed."
"Oh, you’ve been called worse things," Bethany said, one hand waving aside the comment. "Mostly by Carver."
They still hadn’t let the Grand Cleric know what was going on, Anton realised, deciding to stop at the Chantry as they crossed Hightown. Anders, of course, had nothing pleasant to say about this decision, but Cormac managed to shut him up, after a few moments, and Anton wasn’t sure which sounds he’d liked less. And that… Right in the middle of the room, between them and where they needed to be…
"Hello, Mother Petrice!" The words were simply the friendliest of accusations.
"Serah Hawke! It is good to see you. The shame that Varnell brought to his order is most unfortunate." Petrice clasped her hands and attempted to look pious, but only succeeded in looking smug.
Bethany caught up, trailing Sebastian, just in time. She’d been explaining the situation, and what they’d discovered. Sebastian blinked at Petrice. "The shame he brought?"
"Praise the Maker you were his champion in that dark place, Serah Hawke," Petrice went on, as if Sebastian hadn’t spoken at all.
"Look, we’re both adults, here, so you can drop the pretence," Anton drawled.
Bethany laughed brightly. "Oh, Anton, no need for that! Come, Mother Petrice! Tell Sebastian and myself everything you’ve learnt about Varnell’s vile plan."
"Yes." Sebastian forced a smile. "Tell us everything." What in the Maker’s name was Bethany doing?
"I only know what my brothers found down in the depths of Darktown. But, surely, if you’re back here… you must have found something notable! Something that unravels the entire affair!" Bethany’s smile didn’t falter in the least. "Come, come! I have a packet of biscuits, and I’ll share! I simply must know! Sebastian speaks so well of the Mothers here, I can’t wait to hear all about it!"
Cormac hid a smile behind his hand, and Fenris looked at Bethany like she’d lost her mind.
"Oh, don’t go poisoning my sister’s mind with your lies, Mother," Anton snarled, and that was the last push.
"Why, certainly, child! Tell me, what do you know of the Qunari?" Petrice smiled unpleasantly at Anton, as Bethany led her away, Sebastian following after.
"Your sister is terrifying," Anders breathed.
"And I love her," Cormac sighed, grinning up at the healer. "So, now that we’ve gotten the shit out of the path, do we just tell Elthina everything?"
Anton caught the attention of one of the sisters, and asked to see the Grand Cleric. "We certainly tell her something. If she didn’t put her seal on those documents, she’ll want to know what they were used for."
Elthina appeared, shortly. "Is something troubling you?" she asked, from beneath a thin veneer of calm.
"Did you know someone used the authority of your name to instigate a crime against the Qunari?" Anton asked. "It doesn’t sound much like the sort of thing you’d have ordered."
"The path to righteousness is never as straight and narrow as we wish," she replied.
Fenris growled, quietly, and Cormac grabbed Anders’s arm, for all the good it wouldn’t do.
"I truly hoped this would not go so far. But, do not trouble yourselves. I will step in, when it’s time," Elthina assured them.
"Are you intending to stay neutral about the Qunari and mages, forever?" Anton asked, disbelief thick on the words.
"The Maker’s time is not men’s time. We do not need to rush." Apparently the answer to that question was ‘yes’.
"But, it’s men’s problem, and it’s your job!" Anders snapped.
"The Chantry is not a domineering father, with the whip always in hand. She is a gentle mother who knows her children learn best when allowed to learn for themselves."
"You are oppressing my people with a whip you don’t even see yourself holding!" Anders would not be appeased.
"Warden," Anton said, not looking away from Elthina. "We’re here about the Qunari, this time. You and my brother can come discuss the plight of mages, later. We are on the Viscount’s business."
"Okay. Okay, you’re right." Anders looked down and tugged his arm out of Cormac’s grasp, to wrap it around his shoulders.
"This cannot be allowed to go on, Grand Cleric. Look into your own flock and weed out the wolves, before we have any more problems," Anton warned. "The Maker aside, as the Warden says, it’s men’s problem, and it’s a problem with men who claim they’ve devoted themselves to the Maker. If those beneath you bring war to Kirkwall, where will faith in the Maker be, then?"
"That is my concern and His, child. We will do what must be done. Go, then, and be at peace." Elthina dismissed them, and turned away, to return to her other work.