Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 76
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, Cormac is not ok, stupid family stories, sibling rivalry
Notes: CORMAC NO. ANTON YES. ANTON NO. Also, Fenris is kind of a nerd.
They pressed through the trapped horde, one troupe at a time, Anton and Isabela flitting about the rooms like magpies, grabbing anything that looked shiny. By the time they came to another yellow barrier, Anton was wearing an ancient crown, and Isabela was examining what appeared to be a ritual dagger.
"Tevinter make," Fenris pointed out, reaching out and running a finger along the design carved into the blade. "That dragon is Dumat, the first archdemon. Probably still a god, when this was made."
"Another one of these things? Merciful Andraste, dad, what the fuck were you doing here?" Cormac shook his head and got everyone reasonably placed, before he opened the next barrier. On a desire demon.
Anders blinked and flatly expressed his opinion on that revelation. "No."
He and Cormac hit it at the same time, both with the same spell, and it didn’t last long under the onslaught. Behind them, an army of skeletons rose up, but were quickly put down.
"Ah, desire, always my weakness," Cormac sighed, smiling blandly. "Well, I have a weakness for killing them, anyway." He stepped into the alcove, and the voice began again. Lights in the darkness glowed at the right height for eyes, the same blue as his own.
"I’ve bought our freedom, Leandra. We can go home now, us and the baby. We’ll be together. I hope it takes after you, love. I would wish this magic on no one."
"You fucker!" Cormac shouted, and it echoed in the tiny space. "… That was me. Wish this on no one? It’s not a fucking curse! You taught me that!"
The voice went on, as if he’d never spoken, just a recording, an essence of a message hidden behind magic and demons. "May they never learn what I’ve done here."
"Father didn’t want a child with magic? He got that one wrong, three times over," Carver joked.
Cormac wasn’t even aware he was moving until he punched Carver square in the cheek. "Don’t start, Carver. Don’t." It was the first time in his life he’d actually hit Carver. Shoved him off of things, tripped him, threw him in the mud, all that and more, but he’d never actually slugged his baby brother, no matter how many times Carver had decked him. "You and Anton were the ones he wanted. Don’t think I didn’t know. I was his general, but you were his son. Mum’s not afraid of you." Cormac leaned heavily on the wall, face ashy and stunned. "I just never thought I’d hear him say it."
"Hey." Artemis handed his staff off to Fenris for a minute and went over to his older brother (not seeing the wide-eyed look on Fenris’s face or the way the elf carefully leaned the staff against the wall instead). "If we hit Carver everytime he says something stupid, he’ll be bruised forever." He cupped Cormac’s cheeks, forced his brother to look at him. "You know dad loved you. He just blamed himself that you didn’t get to have a normal life. There’s nothing wrong with us." For the first time, Artie was able to say that and believe it. "Well. Not because of magic, anyway. There are a few things wrong in your head, but that has nothing to do with being a mage," he teased.
"Twenty years, I’ve been not punching Carver in the face. I owed him one. Probably more than one, but I think one’s enough." Cormac tipped his head forward, resting his forehead against Artemis’s. "And dad… Dad may have blamed himself for me, but then he blamed me for you. Well, mostly the non-mage things that are wrong with you. I blame me, too. More for the things he didn’t know about than the ones he did, because half of those were me covering your ass, anyway. You hear me, Carver? Artie makes his own trouble, with or without my help." Cormac sighed. "I know it was before us. Before he knew us. Before he… Did we change him? I don’t think we did."
"I don’t know," Artemis replied. "After having five kids like us, it’s kind of hard to be the same person." He could still remember the terror in their father’s eyes when his magic had manifested. Another force mage. "Now, come on. You were laughing a minute ago, you great turnip. Do I need to bring up more embarrassing stories? About the adventures of Nice Ass and Earthquake Boy?"
"I have a feeling this isn’t a story I want to know," Anton muttered to Isabela.
"Really?" she said. "I had the exact opposite feeling."
"You start telling those, Artie, I swear on Andraste’s pyre, I’ll finish them. You don’t want me doing that." Cormac pinched Artemis just above the hip. "And that’s parsnip, not turnip, you nug-licking cad."
"Horseradish," Anders declared.
Cormac didn’t look away from his brother, when he responded to Anders. "Thick and spicy?"
Varric patted Fenris on the arm. "Come on, Broody, let’s leave the crazy mages to their horseradish measuring contest."
"No one’s measuring anyone’s horseradishes," Artie said. He winked at Cormac before gently swatting him upside the head and pulling away. "Personally, my horseradish would like to be out of here already."
Fenris nodded. "Mine too," he grumbled.
"Your horseradish is spicy too," Artemis said, waggling his eyebrows at Fenris as he retrieved his staff.
The group and their respective horseradishes continued twisting through the tower, until a green glow up ahead indicated the presence of another seal. And until an ogre’s bulk eclipsed that green glow.
"Oh my, that’s an ugly one," Bethany muttered.
Artie nudged Cormac with his elbow. "Are you going to let this one punch you in the face, too? Worked great last time!"
"Fuck. This is because I punched Carver, isn’t it. This is some pretty quick holy retribution, don’t you think, Maker?" This time, Cormac didn’t charge it. He clenched his hand and hoped for the best.
"Fight me, Jimmy!" Anders shouted from beside him, sticking the ogre to the ground, before it could even consider going anywhere.
The ogre just looked confused.
"You ass. You’re never going to let me live that down, are you? Any of you…" Cormac muttered, slinging more spells.
"Hey, now I know two mages who shouted that at an ogre. I just had to find myself in a position where I could do it. You’re in good company." Anders laughed.
"He really did that?" Varric asked. "You weren’t just making that up for the good of the story?"
"No, I really did that. Broke my nose and everything," Cormac sighed. "It seemed like a good idea at the time!"
"Honestly," Fenris called back over his shoulder, eyes on the ogre, "for all the things that pass as ‘good ideas’ in your head, how are you even still alive?"
"Shields," Artemis said, his siblings nodding in agreement.
One confused ogre against all of them didn’t stand a chance. Once a flurry of spells had knocked it to the floor, Carver and Fenris made short work of it. They didn’t even need to use Cormac’s face as a shield.
"You’re up, kid," Varric said to Artemis, pointing at the seal.
"Let’s everyone get in place, first," said Anton, wiping a smear of blood off his cheek, "in case another demon decides to pop out and say hello to us."
They arranged themselves in a loose circle around the dais, and Artemis stepped up, feeling magic course into his staff the moment both feet were planted.
"Keep my brother alive," Cormac muttered to Anders, as the next demon surfaced.
"You really don’t need to keep reminding me. I have just as much interest in keeping that delightful ass attached to a living, breathing body as you do." Anders sounded amused.
This demon seemed to be more talented than the last few, vanishing and re-appearing in a group of mirror-images of itself. Still, with Anders and Cormac’s constant stream of blizzard and tempest, it didn’t much matter who hit what. Everything was going down. Bethany added her own nightmarish blend of, well, nightmares into the mix. Confusion reigned, and flurries of snow fluttered up from where Artemis slammed force and the floor into things.
Fenris and Carver, of course, charged right in, hacking at anything that stood taller than Anders — which was one of the few distinctions it was possible to make in that storm — and the rogues danced around the edges, making sure nothing got out of the circle of ice and lightning. It wasn’t a short battle, but it was an effective one, and in the end, the demon and its echoes fell.
Anders handed a lyrium potion to Bethany and healed Carver’s wrenched arm (but not his bruising cheek), and as they filed out of the round room, Larius shuffled up to them again.
"Where does he keep coming from?" Anton muttered.
"He is waking," Larius said with a triumphant, if small, smile. "The magic grows lax. He feels us walk where no step goes."
"Are you talking about this Corypheus?" Fenris asked, squinting at the Warden. He didn’t understand half of that.
"He calls," Larius said, nodding. "Like an Old God. He mimics their cry. He calls them to free him. The dark children and the light, any with taint in their blood." He looked right at Anders as he said this last.
"If Corypheus isn’t an Old God, what is he? Human, demon, darkspawn?" Anton asked.
"More than human. More than darkspawn. He thinks. He talks. He pierces the Veil." Larius didn’t look at any of them as he spoke, a distracted and somewhat fearful look on his face.
"I pierce the Veil," Fenris muttered, and then something occurred to him. "Oh, wouldn’t that be fun. I suppose this madness had to have started somewhere."
"Like the Architect," Anders breathed. He’d been there for that. He just hoped there wouldn’t be any brood mothers, this time. "Oh, this is going to be all the excitement I need for the rest of my life. Assuming there is a rest of my life."
"He wants what was once his," Larius insisted.
"I don’t like the sound of that." Fenris shifted from foot to foot, glancing around.
"I’m with Broody." Anders’s grip on his staff tightened.
"But, if he’s asleep," Bethany asked, "how is he sending people after us?"
"He can call, dream, but not know," Larius explained. "When the seals are gone, he will wake. And he must die."
"Sominiari?" Cormac whispered to Artemis. "Shit, I hope not."
"That was fun enough last time," Artemis whispered back. "I’d rather not relive that nightmare." He paused. "So to speak."
"Say, Loony," said Varric, squinting up at Larius, "when you run off, where do you go?"
Larius looked too distracted to be offended by the moniker. He glanced over his shoulder, fingers twitching. "I know the darkness before the seals," he said. "Here, the voice is too strong." He started to back away, shoulders hunching inwards. "I cannot stay!"
Larius turned and shuffled into the dark and out of sight. Anton tried to follow, but when he turned a corner, Larius was gone. "There’s a neat trick," Anton muttered, a little enviously.
"He’s right, though," Anders said, rubbing his temple. "It really is a little loud. More than just the hum of the darkspawn."
"You can hear it?" Cormac asked. "Hear him?"
"Of course I can. I’m just… I can’t tell you what he’s saying, because I don’t want to start listening. I don’t want to… " Anders shrugged. "You saw the dwarves, upstairs. I don’t want to hear him any more clearly than I do."
"Shit. You going to be all right?"
"Please. I survived the Circle, the Wardens, and being stabbed in the chest by a templar. And I’m still too young to be Called." The strained smile on Anders’s face was less than entirely reassuring, but he led the way, in and down.
The architecture turned dwarven, as they descended, the walls of the tower giving way to the rough-hewn walls of the Deep Roads. Weird lizard things scurried around, before noticing them, and darting away, all in the same direction.
"Deepstalkers," Anders grumbled, throwing a tempest into the clearing the lizards had vanished into. "It’s a trap. It’s always a trap."
The number of singed and lightly charred lizards left, after the storm cleared, proved him right. "Anyone want to stop for lunch? They’re edible, and they’re already mostly cooked." Anders flipped over a dead lizard with his foot. He remembered them tasting a bit like chicken.
"That is disgusting, thank you," Carver replied. He didn’t mention that, last time they were stuck in the Deep Roads, he would have killed for food like that after Maker knows how many days they spent down there.
"They’re a delicacy in Orzammar, you know," Varric said, taking the time to kick one still-smoking deepstalker aside as he trudged past.
Fog curled around their feet as they walked, lichen making the underground lakes glow green. Unsurprisingly, dwarven armour jutted up around ancient bones scattered around the foggy ground.
"That looks like Legion of the Dead armour," Varric commented, checking one of the skeletons.
"I knew a girl from the Legion, once. Not nearly as dour as you’d think." Anders winked at Artemis. "Amazing sense of humour, she had."
"Exalted Age, to judge by his notes," Varric said, still rifling the skeleton’s effects. "Can we lay them to rest, do you think? I can’t imagine them being stuck here, in this lunatic prison, all these hundreds of years. Not that Legionnaires expect to be commended to the Ancestors, but…"
"We’ve seen them, and we know. We’re probably the only ones who know." Anton nodded. "Atrast tunsha. Totarnia amgetol tavash aeduc," he recited over the skeleton.
Varric looked at Anton oddly.
"What? You act like this is the first time I’ve had dealings with the Carta. I know what a dwarven funeral looks like — at least a little. At least a Surfacer’s funeral." Anton arranged a few stones in the appropriate fashion. "So, we’ll do this, as we pass them. The rest of you can use the time to check for ambushes and bloody demons."
"Merciful fuck, can we not have any more demons, today?" Cormac complained.
Fenris wordlessly pointed at Anders, who didn’t notice.
"Play nice," Artemis said, grabbing that pointing finger.
Fenris huffed but kept an eye on the abomination as they continued on, through the fog and the gloom. Every now and then, Anders would shake his head as though trying to clear it. Fenris kept a hand on his sword.
Red torchlight broke the darkness ahead, flanking a set of steps. Isabela and Anton exchanged glances with each other and the group before scouting ahead, knives in their hands as they slipped into the shadows.
"Ooh, more red glowy magic," Isabela said. "That hasn’t been working out so well. Shall we let mage-shoulders poke this one too?"
"Seems different," Anton said, stepping closer to what appeared to be an altar, complete with creepy-looking statue. "And I think my brothers had been poking enough glowy things lately."
"That is an altar to Dumat. Many of them still stand in the cities of Tevinter. For all that the people have turned away from the Old Gods, in the wake of the Blights, there is a strong sense of history," Fenris explained. "The dagger you found was probably used in sacrifices, here. Although I am curious what such an altar is doing in the Deep Roads. If it is of a later vintage, like the tower above us, I wonder even more, since there were no Wardens until the First Blight — the Blight of Dumat. Either way, it will not do us well to linger."
"Let’s leave the creepy altar to the archdemon alone, yes?" Anders clutched his staff, squinting at the red glow as if he had a headache.
Anton examined the engravings, before taking off the crown still perched on his head. "This matches. There’s a pattern here that’s repeated on the crown."
"Beware how many ritual trappings you bring to the altar," Fenris warned.
Setting the crown back on his head at a jaunty angle, Anton picked at the lacings on his trousers. "Oh, I’m not putting it down. I have only one thing to offer Dumat." A moment later, the splash of liquid on stone could be heard. "Suck my spicy Fereldan horseradish."
Fenris made a strangled sound in the back of his throat.
"Anton, I swear," Artemis said with a nervous laugh, "if you somehow start another Blight by peeing on an altar, I better live long enough to pee on your memorial."
"You’re just envious because I look better in a crown," Anton said over his shoulder, shaking off his ‘horseradish’ before doing up his laces again. Isabela wiped tears of laughter from her eyes.
Dumat’s statue looked on disapprovingly, and the red glow burned brighter. The ground trembled, and a pair of rage demons erupted from fissures in the ground.
"You just had to do that, didn’t you?" Carver snapped, drawing up his sword again. "You just had to pee on the red glowy thing?"
"Dammit, Anton! What did I just say about demons?" Cormac sighed and iced a demon. "Too damned many demons for one day."