Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 75
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, Anders is not ok, Cormac is not much better, stupid family stories, sibling rivalry
Notes: This day just kept improving, Anton thought.
The others ignored his protests as they followed after the tottering old man. The room he led them into was lined with more crests — griffons, for the Wardens — and a dais stood in the middle, glowing with green light.
"Ooh, green," Isabela purred. "We’re going through all the glowy colours now!"
"The seal." The old Warden pointed.
"I don’t like this," Anders declared, in case anyone was unsure on that point.
"I don’t think anybody likes this, Blondie. Still, we’re stuck here, until this nug-licking loony gets us out." Varric walked around the edge of the seal, studying it. "Whatever this is, it’s all Warden. There’s nothing dwarven about it. This is definitely later than the stuff upstairs."
"I’m inclined to agree," Fenris said, looking at the walls. "This place may date back to when the Marches were still in Tevinter control, but I don’t think this is Tevinter architecture — which implies the Wardens who built it weren’t Tevinter, either."
"Be careful, Artie," Cormac warned, elbowing Anders. "Eyes on my brother. I know you don’t mind the view."
"I’m not even going to push you down the stairs, Cormac, I’m just going to toss you over the balcony," Carver grumbled. "What is it with the three of you?"
"We have nice asses." Cormac grinned unapologetically. "I’d say you should try it sometime, but I think it’s genetic, and you already missed that chance."
"There’s nothing wrong with my ass," Carver protested. "And even if there was, you’re enough of an ass for both of us!"
"You’ll hear no arguments from me," Fenris muttered under his breath. He kept his eyes on Artie, clutching his sword and turning the hilt over in his hands. Magic. Always more magic. And this was a kind of magic he’d rather not touch with a ten foot pole.
Artemis stepped up onto the dais, sweat lining his palms where he gripped the staff. He conjured up a cheeky smile for Cormac’s sake before holding the staff out in front of him. The four braziers at the platform’s corners pulsed and glowed, blue light arcing from all sides into the staff. Artie grit his teeth and braced himself.
When the light show had ended, the braziers had burned out, and no one had died. The staff seemed to hum in Artie’s hands. "Huh."
"The blood works," Larius called out. "It is good!"
"Artie! Move!" Anton shouted, daggers suddenly in his hands.
"Demon!" Cormac yelled, wrapping his brother in a shield as Varric started hammering the thing with crossbow bolts.
This fight was not short or quick, but there were enough of them to beat the thing down. Anders kept the bleeding to a minimum, and after what felt like much too long, the demon fell, vanishing into a scorch mark on the stone.
"Two thousand years, the magic holds, never broken." The old Warden looked at Artemis, fascinated. "You give it the key, and it takes the magic back to itself. Absorbs it, all who came before…"
"Look, thanks for the help, but who are you? Do you have a name?" Anton asked.
"Name… So long since I’ve said my name. La… Larius! I was Larius!" The old Warden looked triumphant that he could remember that. "There was a title, too… Commander… Commander of the Grey."
"Called it," Anders muttered, fingers back to digging into Cormac’s shoulder. "But, crazier. You’ve had your Calling, haven’t you."
"Yes! The Calling! The songs get louder… only death stops them." Larius nodded lurching over to look up at Anders. "I am dead. But, I never died."
"And I’m dead, but I did die. Pleased to meet you." Anders’s grin was a little hysterical.
"So you are a Warden," Artemis said, looking over the tattered uniform. "But… how did you end up like this? I thought Wardens were immune to the taint?" He looked back at Anders.
Anders couldn’t quite meet his eyes, his grip on Cormac’s shoulder tightening. "For while, anyway. And then… You remember when he said he belonged here and we didn’t because we weren’t darkspawn? He’s… basically hyperintelligent darkspawn, at this point. I’ve met those, independently of any Warden associations, and they’re some creepy shit, but that’s… more or less… It catches up, in the end, but it doesn’t kill us. No one’s immune forever."
"The Calling," Larius said, nodding. "It comes to us all. The voice we can’t resist. Our death."
Wide-eyed, Artemis looked back and forth between them, words sticking in his throat.
"Well, that sounds like fun!" Cormac wasn’t so much grinning as grimacing. "My sexy Warden’s going to turn into a sexy darkspawn, one of these days, won’t that be a riot?" He reached up and grabbed Anders’s hand. "Don’t worry, sweetness, I’m not going to hold it against you. Just add another item on the list of crazy shit I’ve done in bed." Later, Cormac reassured himself. He’d have time to panic about that, later.
"Andraste’s brazen ass, Cormac, I thought there’d be limits, even for you!" Carver complained.
"There are limits! This just isn’t one of them." Cormac shrugged and looked over his shoulder at Carver. "This dude seems roughly coherent, at least mostly. Old people lose their memories and say crazy shit. I just get the added bonus of the crazy shit involving the singing of the darkspawn. And maybe not being that old. I don’t know. Anders? You going to be old when this happens?"
"They gave me about thirty years, give or take." Anders tried to ignore the sweat running down his spine like a river.
"So, we’re going to be old anyway! Shit, at this rate, we might already be dead!" Cormac shrugged again. "Can’t care. Still got twenty something years before it matters."
Anders wondered if Cormac had thought about that sentence at all. The idea that twenty something years from now, they’d still be together… But, Cormac was stubborn like that. He had expectations of stability, or at least the illusion of stability, and he did his damnedest to keep those up. So, maybe that was it. Cormac was just so used to having him around that the idea of him not being there in twenty years wasn’t even in his head. "I’ll drive you crazy before it matters," Anders promised.
"Future tense?" Artemis said with a weak laugh. "He’s already crazy."
‘Nothing serious’, his brother and Anders had insisted. Nothing serious, and yet here they were, talking about this. Cormac was always good at throwing up shields, but Artie could see the barest panic in his eyes.
"Shit," Varric swore. "Just… we opened the seal thing. Can we go now? I think we’ve had enough of death and darkspawn to last us a lifetime."
But Larius shook his head. "There are more," he said. "Follow them in. All the way to the heart. Many locks. Only one key."
Artie groaned, thunking his head against the staff-key-thing.
Larius’s head snapped up and to the side, as though he were listening for something. Next to Cormac, Anders tensed even more. "C-Corypheus calls! In the darkness!" Larius wandered off towards some imagined sound, as though pulled, still muttering to himself. "What waits there?"
"… Darkspawn. Darkspawn wait there. That’s great." Cormac stared down the bridge at the massive wall of angry taint-beast holding a giant spiked shield. He clenched his hand and slammed the bottom of his staff against the ground, and the creature bent, but didn’t compact. "I don’t think I’ve got a wide enough grip for something that size…" he muttered.
Still, he’d pinned it, and the rest of the group made short work of the beast, once it couldn’t use the shield to defend itself. "That is one heavy looking shield," Varric noted, standing next to it, once the creature had fallen. The angled iron stood as high as his head, even fallen, and it was taller than it was deep.
Around them, darkspawn ran through the arched halls that looked out over the deep centre of the tower. "Isn’t it odd that a darkspawn-filled pit is making me feel closer to our father?" Anton speculated, dragging a hand down his face.
This had been bad, when it was raids by Carta dwarves. It had gotten worse with the addition of demons and blood magic. And now they were once again trapped in a darkspawn-filled underground nightmare-hole, this time with some ancient beast — or possibly an immortal magister, if Fenris’s suggestions were valid — that wanted their dad’s blood. This day just kept improving, Anton thought.
Down and in, the crazy not-quite-darkspawn Warden had said. And into the tower they went, avoiding darkspawn for the moment, but hearing their footsteps far ahead. The halls seemed to wind around the tower in a descending spiral, and slowly they made their way down as well as in.
Isabela whacked Anton’s arm to get his attention. "Look," she said, "more glowy things! I’ll take that as a sign we’re going the right way. Or… well, if not the right way, the consistent way."
This glow was the red kind, the kind they’d encountered before hearing their father’s voice for the first time. The kind that was sealing in a demon.
"Well," said Bethany, "we know touching it doesn’t kill Cormac." She nudged her eldest brother in front of her.
Cormac grumbled, and took his time letting go of Anders. "Demons. Everyone happy with where you’re standing in relation to the thing?" He moved through the first two red spheres, with no further messages from their father, and then opened the barrier.
"That used to be human," were the first words out of Anders. Sealed in a tiny stone room with a demon. For… how old was Cormac? Probably thirty years, at least, if Cormac didn’t know about any of this. The fight went on around him and Justice clattered against the inside of his skin. Heal. Don’t think, just heal. He still wondered if that had been a mage when it went into the room, or if it had already been taken. ‘Couldn’t stop the Wardens from using demons’, the voice had said. Using demons to what?
Cormac was standing in front of him, looking concerned. The demons were gone. "Sorry. Underground. Not really my happy place."
Anton stepped into the niche to pick through the remains, and then the voice returned.
"I may have left the circle, but I took a vow. My magic will serve that which is best in me, not that which is most base."
"That which is best in me. Just like dad always said, when he was teaching us, right Artie?" Cormac’s arm slid around Anders’s waist, and he tried to keep that smile on his face, however shaky it might have looked, in that moment. That was the other thing dad used to say. Keep smiling; don’t let them get you down. And, Maker, he was trying.
Anders held Cormac to him, his own grip bruisingly tight.
"Right," Artemis agreed with a weak smile of his own. He could see his brother was barely holding it together, and he tried to distract him. "Do you remember what else Dad used to say all the time? ‘Cormac, no’. You were always getting me into trouble." He nudged Cormac’s arm. "Do you remember the first time we saw snow? You put up a shield and convinced me to force push you down a hill. Dad was so pissed, I could see steam coming out of his ears."
Anton snorted. "I remember that."
"No, you know what I remember? Mum and Carver. Same day. We were heading south? I don’t even remember what was south, other than not the Imperial Highway. Snow on everything in sight, when we got up. And Carver must have been… what, three? Four? And he stuck his hands in the snow—"
"You are not telling this story, Cormac. I have a sword." Carver covered his face with one hand and got a tighter grip on the hilt with the other.
"A sword you still can’t hit me with," Cormac shot back. "He stuck his hands in the snow, and got this look on his face — surprised, confused, horrified — and let out this howl you probably could have heard in the tower. We were nearly in the Wilds. He picks up two fistfuls of snow, yelling, ‘it’s coooooold!’ at the top of his lungs." Cormac couldn’t stop laughing. "And mum… She’s right there, looking at him like he’s got three heads. ‘Of course it’s cold, Carver. It’s snow. Put it down.’ The ‘dumbass’ was implied."
"I will fucking stab you, Cormac. Those shields have to come down sometime." Carver groaned and looked at anything that wasn’t one of his relations.
"You were not a very bright child, were you, Carver? Age seems to have improved you, somewhat," Fenris gritted out, jaw clenched to keep from laughing. "…Somewhat."
"I’m writing this down," Varric said. "As soon as we’re out of this shithole, I’m writing this down."
Anders struggled to keep Cormac upright, as Cormac continued to cackle hysterically.
"What about that one time I covered for you, after the thing with the elves?" Cormac choked out. "Dad— dad never found out about that one time. Or at least not the interesting parts. Maker, he’d have killed us both!"
"Oh, Maker," Artie groaned, splaying a hand over his face to hide the blushing. "Why must that keep coming up?"
"Does this have to do with that Dalish at Merrill’s camp," Fenris asked, eyes narrowing, "the one who called you… what was it… ‘Earthquake Boy’?"
Artie peeked at Fenris through his fingers and watched for the realisation to hit. Green eyes suddenly popped wide.
"‘EARTHQUAKE BOY’?" he squeaked. "You and—? Fasta vass! Isabela, you are buying me a drink after all this."
Isabela was wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. "Only one, sweet thing? What kind?"
"The bottomless kind."
Artemis groaned. He pulled his hand down from his face to focus a glare in Cormac’s direction. "You just had to bring that up, didn’t you," he said and, with a malice only a little brother with a secret could have, he added, "‘Nice Ass’?"
"Do I want to know why your little brother is talking about your ass?" Varric asked.
"My little brother — at least that one — knows all about my ass. Anders, would you like to explain why?" Cormac looked strangely more relaxed, like he’d identified a recognisable threat, and he knew exactly what to do with it.
"You mean the number of times he mistook it for mine and grabbed it?" Anders threw in, with a laugh.
"The three of you!?" Isabela was scandalised, in the best possible way. "And nobody invited me? I missed out on a Hawke! Shame on both of you!"
"Don’t give us that look, Fenris. You know all about how nice my ass is." Cormac grinned.
Varric looked around the room. "I think I’m the only person here who’s never seen Cormac’s ass, and I’m okay with that. Please, don’t share."
Carver looked like his brain might start running out his ear any second. "That— that’s — How are you two even still looking at each other? How drunk did you get Artemis? I swear it, Cormac, I’m going to stab you. Twice."
"Oh, come off it, Carver," Bethany nudged him. "You’re the only one of us that didn’t end up with the legendary Hawke ass."
"There is nothing wrong with my ass!" Carver insisted, storming out of the room, in the direction they’d been going.
"You guys are going to break him, one of these days," Anton remarked, tucking a few shiny things into his belt.
"This probably goes without saying," Artie said through a cringing laugh, "but I am so not drunk enough for any of this." He slung an arm around Cormac’s mage-shoulders and tousled his hair with an affectionate smile, then pulled away and followed the path Carver stomped for them.
"Are all families like this?" Fenris asked at his side. He couldn’t decide if that was something he wished he had or something he was glad he didn’t.
"I don’t think Thedas would survive if so."
"I didn’t have a family," Isabela said, shrugging.
"You’ve met my brother," Varric muttered.
"I spent a lot of years in the Circle, but my family was a lot less exciting, from what I remember." Anders laughed nervously.
"Aw, fuck!" Carver shouted from ahead of them, and they rushed to help him through the next troupe of darkspawn.
"Yell if you get hit," Anders reminded them all. "And try not to get too much blood on you!"