Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 74
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Isabela ♀, Varric ♂, Fenris ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Demons, blood magic, suggestions of mind control, violence, dick jokes
Notes: A staff is found. The Carta gives way to more interesting troubles.
Cormac ducked through the last few flurries and flipped over the lead dwarf’s body with his foot, to get a better look at the glowing blue… something. "What the…?" He crouched down. A staff. It was some sort of bizarrely ornate staff, and it was glowing. "Anders? Artie? Bethy? What the fuck is this?"
Anders made his way over to the staff and examined it, unwilling to touch it while it was glowing like that. He had enough bright blue problems in his life. "It sings… Justice tells me it’s not for us, but we can hear it calling for the one it lost. I think he just doesn’t like the idea of any more competition for my attention."
"Blood of the Hawke," Bethany speculated. "You don’t think it’s meant for one of us, do you? You’re the obvious choice, Cormac. You’re the heir."
"Hey, I look like dad, but Artie casts like dad," Cormac protested, jabbing a finger at his brother. "And we still have no proof this ever even was his. I mean, there’s demons and blood mages around here, somewhere, at least if we trust the stones… and the dwarves."
Cormac sighed and reached for the staff. "Shit. Knock me out if I need it, would you, Bethy?"
"Always happy to make you unconscious, dear brother mine." Bethany practically sparkled with the invitation.
"Whoa, whoa, hang on." Artie’s hand snapped out and caught Cormac’s by the wrist. "That thing is obviously magic. You don’t know what touching it will do. You said yourself I cast like dad. Let me do it."
"Artie, if it hurts you… If it’s not dad’s…" Cormac looked twenty-something years of concerned, all at once. "You sure you want to stick your hand in this, instead of letting me take the hit?"
"You’re always taking the hit," Artemis said, his smile teasing but eyes soft. "And I don’t think your shield’s going to help with this, anyway."
Artie reached for the staff before anyone else could argue — Fenris certainly looked like he was about to — and the moment his hand curled around the wood, his vision went white, his muscles locking. He made a choked sound of pain, staggering back, as striations of light rippled up along his skin.
"What is this?" Artemis grit out. "I can feel it inside me!"
The light across his skin flickered out, and the staff stopped glowing. Artie let out a shaky breath and shook the spots from his eyes.
It was over before Cormac could get up and across the body, but he ran his hands over Artemis’s shoulders patting his sides and chest. "You, ah… done having your ecstatic moment with the staff, then? Nothing’s broken? Nothing’s on fire?"
"What is it with you and feeling great big mage staves inside you, Artie?" Anders asked, trying not to look as concerned as he was.
"Must be a talent," Artemis replied, if distractedly, a beat behind. He swatted his brother’s hands away. "I’m fine, Cormac. You’re fussing again."
"Of course I’m fussing! You were glowing in the dark!" Cormac shook out his hand and huffed. "Getting to be a habit, around here. Glowing blue and getting into my little brother."
"So, the enchantment did need one of us. What did our father know?" Carver asked, gazing at Artemis in horror. His brother had just lit up like the glowy elf, and then there were jokes about things he never wanted to think about in the context of any of his brothers. Without taking his eyes off Artie, he crossed to Cormac and punched his oldest brother solidly in the kidney… A hit that bounced off, anyway.
"Did you really think you’d get away with that? Here? If there were ever a time I’d have my shields up…" Cormac gestured at the assortment of dwarf corpses. "Try it again when we get home. I might let you, just for the dog."
Over Carver’s shoulder, Artemis locked eyes with Fenris, whose ears were twitching the way they did when he was struggling to look calm. Artie pushed past his squabbling brothers and looped an arm around Fenris’s waist. "I’m all right, Fen. You can stop with the puppy eyes."
"There are still no puppy eyes."
"This is me, nodding like I believe you." Artemis looked back over his shoulder at his siblings. "Hopefully this will lead us to this Corypheus." He brandished his new staff, feeling its every movement in his bones, as if there were a tether tying them together. "Wow, this is strange," he muttered to himself.
There was movement to the side, the sound of scrabbling feet, as a pair of dwarves they’d somehow missed in the carnage tried to flee. Carver took off after them, and after a second everyone else followed, chasing the dwarves down a flight of stairs. As they passed through the arch between the first and second parts of the staircase, Cormac reeled, and spun, staggering down the last few steps backward. Bethany also stumbled, but Artemis seemed to be fine, possibly because of the staff. It didn’t hit Anders as hard, but he still noticed it.
"What—?" Anders looked back and froze.
Varric turned around to look. "Those sons of bitches… The whole thing’s sealed over."
"What did I say about traditional dwarven architecture?" Anders did not look well, but Cormac wrapped an arm casually around his waist, holding him firmly upright.
"I’m sure there’s another way out," Cormac reassured them. "That or we kill the asshole responsible, and this way out opens up again. Either way, we do what we came to do, and then we leave."
"Magic," Fenris snarled, looking just about as spooked as Anders. "Blood magic. Ancient Tevinter names and dwarves using blood magic."
"I guess regular old humans and elves using blood magic was getting a bit stale," Artie said with a weak laugh, staff bouncing against the stone floor. He bounced it one too many times and sparks shot out of the bottom. "Ooh, okay, let’s maybe not do that," he muttered to himself.
Isabela and Anton padded ahead of the group, stopping in front of a balcony that looked out over the chasm. A tower jutted up from the chasm, its walls and floors showing signs of decay and wear. Sand crunched underfoot as dark shapes ran along the tower walls.
"Darkspawn," Bethany said as she approached. "What a surprise."
Isabela leaned in to Anton. "I prefer towers filled with coin to towers filled with darkspawn," she said. "For future reference."
"Guess I’ll have to return your nameday gift then," Anton countered.
They made short work of the darkspawn — obviously not the intelligent kind —and turned an eye to the glowing red spots in the walls. "Well, that’s new," Cormac remarked. "It’s usually blue and glowy with us, not red and glowy."
"Blood magic," Fenris grumbled.
Cormac prodded at what he thought was a Warden crest carved into the stone. A voice echoed through the room — or at least he thought it was through the room. Maybe it was just through his head. He couldn’t quite be sure, with all the ringing.
"Be bound here for eternity, hunger stilled, rage smothered, desire dampened, pride crushed. In the name of the Maker, so it be."
Cormac listened, waiting for it to say something else, but the voice was silent. Hunger, rage, desire, pride… "Demons," he muttered, eyeing the crest on the other side of the room. What might have been an alcove was sealed off with a barrier similar to the one that had trapped them down here. "I have a thought. It’s going to involve killing demons, but it might get us out of here."
Artemis was still looking around him for the source of that voice. That had sounded like — no. It couldn’t be.
"An idea?" he asked, shaking off the sense of ‘weird’. "Is this anything like your ‘let’s touch the glowy staff’ idea? Just because no one died that time doesn’t mean you’ll have the same luck twice."
Fenris was muttering something about mages as he looked about him, at the glowing, blood-smeared crest on the wall.
"Well, if it’s going to be one of us, this time, it’s going to be me. Anders? Keep my brother alive." Cormac crossed the room and pressed his hand to the next crest. Nothing seemed to change, no voice echoed through the chamber, this time. Wait, no, there was only one light on the barrier, where there had been two. He studied the light.
"Fenris, Carver?" Cormac pointed to the two sides of the barrier. "Anders, get behind me. Artie, here’s where you really get to test out that new staff. If I open this up on a demon, please punch the shit out of it. Let’s work with the expectation that I’m going to be incapacitated. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but that sounds like the safest assumption."
Isabela sidled up next to Cormac. "I’m not real big on demons, so how about I catch you when you magically fall on your magical ass?"
"Looking for excuses to grab my magical ass? You don’t need excuses, Izzy. The ass is yours whenever you want it." Cormac grinned, took a deep breath, and put his hand into the light.
The barrier faded, and Cormac remained standing, as shades began to rise out of the ground.
"Shades?" Varric asked. "That hardly counts! Here I was expecting something challenging!"
"Cormac," Artie said, gathering magic under his fingertips, "your magical ass is in the way."
Izzy steered Cormac to the side, and Artemis threw a wave of force magic at the shades, shoving them back into the alcove. The strength of it knocked Artie back a step and shook loose some debris from the ceiling. "Ho shit!"
"Careful where you aim that, kid," said Varric, firing a stream of bolts into the pinned shades. It was like shooting fish in a barrel… if fish were incorporeal terrors of the Fade.
"I could do nothing about the Wardens’ use of demons, in this horrid place," the voice began again.
"Is that… dad?" Cormac still looked a little stunned, maybe more stunned now that this thought had occurred to him.
"But, I will have no one say any magic of mine ever released one into the world."
"That does sound like our father," Anton agreed, "but how?"
Anders gestured at the open niche. "Demons?"
Fenris pointed at one of the crests. "Blood magic?"
"I am really not liking this," Carver muttered. "Dad’s been dead what, ten years? His voice shouldn’t be echoing through some Warden fortress inhabited by possessed dwarves."
Bethany tapped her teeth. "Does anyone else recognise the voice, or is it just us? Izzy? Varric?"
"I never heard your father speak. Pity I never met him. He sounds like a lot of fun," Isabela said.
"No, I mean, does it only sound like our father to us, because we’re us?"
Isabela shrugged. "I didn’t have a father."
"That’s not my dad," Varric said.
"Let’s not discuss my parents, but no. Doesn’t sound like anyone I know." Anders shook his head and checked Cormac for any lingering magics.
Fenris merely shook his head, saying nothing.
"Never thought I’d hear his voice again," Artemis murmured, fidgeting with the staff in his hands. Dad’s staff. The thought made him ache.
"Looks like your magical ass is still intact," Anders told Cormac, smiling awkwardly to hide his relief, "and untouched by magic. Well. This place’s magic."
"And thank the Maker for that," Izzy teased, giving said ass an appreciative tap as she passed by.
Anton scouted ahead, stepping around debris and into shadows. They had finally reached a walkway that would lead them into the tower, when he motioned for them to stop, coming back out into the torchlight.
"The key!" A doddering old man in Warden’s robes rushed toward them as best he could, around the wreckage on the path. "Did they find it? The Dwarves? I heard them … looking… digging. How do you bring the key here?"
"You mean this?" Anton gestured to the staff Artemis held. "How is that a key?"
"Magic, old magic it is. Magic from the blood." The old warden nodded.
Anders sighed and looked at Fenris. "Blood magic. I’m just overjoyed. You?"
"Mages," Fenris grumbled.
"It made the seals," the Warden went on. "It can destroy them."
"We came here to find Corypheus. Do you know where… or what he is?" Cormac asked.
"Do not say his name! He will hear you! You will wake him!" The Warden waved frantically. "Not when you hold the key!"
"Please tell me that armour looks better on me than it does on him," Anders muttered, counting the studs in Anton’s belt, to keep himself standing. It was looking more and more Deep Roads-y down here, and there were even Wardens, now. Creepy old wardens who probably should have given in to the Calling long before now.
"I don’t know, Blondie," Varric said with a shaky laugh. "That bloodstained blue really brings out the ‘crazy’ in his eyes."
Artie noticed the green tinge to Anders’s face. He nudged Anders gently with his elbow. "If it makes you feel better," he said, "I’m sure the armour looks better off you than him."
"It doesn’t make me feel better," Fenris deadpanned.
Bethany pushed past her idiot brothers to stand in front of the Warden. "The door seems to have closed behind us," she said. "Is there another way out?"
The Warden shook his head, shoulders hunching as he muttered more to himself than to them, "No way out while the walls stand. The Wardens built their prisons well. If the centre holds, who cares what else is trapped?"
"Sorry, Hawkes," said Varric, "but I don’t think we’re getting any help here."
"Hawke!" The Warden’s head snapped up at the name, filmy eyes widening, lingering on Cormac, with something like recognition. "You return— but that’s not… The blood of the Hawke?" His eyes darted first to Bethany then to Artemis, stare settling on the staff in his hands. "Yes, I smell the magic on all of you. But you hold the key! The key to his death… Yes. I can show you out, yes."
"Who are you? What’s wrong with you?" Carver asked.
"You ask me that? I am the one who belongs here, not you! You are no darkspawn!" The Warden looked utterly offended.
"That armour…" Anders muttered. "It’s Warden issue. No one has that, but us. If there were questions, that’s an answer."
"You hear it, no? Hear it calling? I smell it in you." The Warden jabbed a finger at Anders. "I know the way out. Follow me. Down and in. Down and in."
"Because I always like to follow the advice of tainted crazy people…" Cormac sighed.
"Hey, you’re still following me around!" Anders pointed out.
"No, not crazy. Trust me. I know the prison’s secrets." The Warden twisted at an impossible angle to look behind himself. "The seals hold us in. Anything comes in. Nothing ever leaves. Not without the key. You must use it, yes, on the seals. Every seal, you touch the key to it. Only then they open. Only for the Hawke. Not back. Not up. The only way out is down and through the heart. Down… Down in the depths."
"Down in the dark. Why is it always down in the dark?" Anders had one hand on his staff and the other on Cormac’s arm, knuckles white.
"Hey, we got out last time, didn’t we?" Artemis said at his other side. That wasn’t half as reassuring as he thought it was. "We could always set up a tent and re-enact the fun part too," he added in a lower voice, waggling his eyebrows.
"No," said Fenris simply.
"I was just trying to lighten the mood. You’re no fun."
Ahead of them, the old Warden limped into the tower, and Anton turned to look at his siblings. "Shall we?" he said. "Before our brother finds a way to get drunk down here too?"