Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 81
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
Notes: Death! Destruction! GIANT FIREBALLS! A demonstration of why mages are feared.
A pillar of light rose from the middle of the dais, and Artemis frowned at it a moment before sticking his staff inside and hoping for the best. The staff pulled out of his hand, floating there in the air in front of him, when an explosion sent Artie airborne.
"Shit!" Cormac’s hand flashed as he wrapped a shield around Artie, before he could hit the ground. "Artie? You good? Sorry I wasn’t faster, but I didn’t really expect to see— Oh, shit. What the fuck is that?"
The smile finally slid off Cormac’s face, as some tall, slender … creature rose out of the centre of the dais. He thought it might be another demon, but it didn’t feel like a demon.
"That’s about what I was expecting," Anders admitted quietly. "I’ve seen something like this before, and I hoped never to see one again, unless it was bearing good news, which this probably isn’t." He finally noticed Carver bleeding on the floor, and flicked his fingers in that direction.
It looked up at the dome and spoke. "Be this some dream I wake from? Are these dwarven lands? Why seem their roads so empty?" After a moment, it spotted Anton, still wearing the crown. "You! Serve you at the temple of Dumat? Bring me thither! I must speak with the first acolyte."
"Dumat?" Anders’s eyes shot to the crown, as he remembered the altar at the base of the tower. "There haven’t been temples to Dumat since ancient Tevinter."
"You look human. Are you not of the empire? Slaves, then, to the dwarves? Why come you to this place?" Corypheus looked confused by his surroundings. "Whoever you be, you owe fealty to any magister of Tevinter. On your knees! All of you!"
"Sorry, magisters give me a rash," Cormac muttered.
"You and your god are invited to suck my spicy Fereldan h—" Anders clapped a hand over Anton’s mouth.
"Don’t do it. There’s a time and a place, and staring death in the face is not it." Anders shook his head.
"On our knees?" Artemis replied, head tilting. "You could at least buy me a drink first."
"I am disowning all of you," Carver groaned.
Corypheus squinted at each of them, like he was trying to make sense of what he was seeing. Artemis wondered if he’d heard any of what they’d just said.
"This is the Free Marches," said Bethany. "It hasn’t been a part of the Imperium for six hundred years."
But Corypheus still didn’t seem to be listening. "You are what held me," he said, stare wandering between the Hawkes. "I smell the blood in you."
Cormac shrugged and smiled easily. "And there are more of us of the blood than just the one who contained you. Should tell you a little something about us," he bluffed. Six hundred year old Tevinter magister? Yeah, this was whole new levels of stupid. Win, lose, or get banished to the deepest pits of the fade, this was going to be legendary. He was born to make legends.
Corypheus squinted at Cormac’s face for a very long moment. "You are no elf," he mumbled, to himself, "and no elf I have ever seen has been so marked." He turned away from the Hawkes, looking out to the sky beyond the dome. "Dumat! Lord! What waking dream is this? This dwarf has no beard! This man has extremely inappropriate elven markings on his face!"
He paused and turned, still addressing his god. "We sought the light, the golden light. You offered… the powers of the gods themselves. But it was… black… corrupt… Darkness, ever since. How long?"
"The golden city. The first violation. The magisters who brought the blight. But… Dad said it was all bullshit." Cormac stared up at Corypheus, more than a little awed. His estimations shifted dramatically. This magister predated the First Blight. Predated the darkspawn. This wasn’t just legendary, this was one of the most terrifyingly powerful blood mages ever to walk the face of Thedas, in any era — a magister who partook in the slaughter of thousands and the use of more lyrium than had ever been in a single place at once, before or since. "Did he know? Could he have known, if the dreamer still slept?"
"That’s ridiculous! There were no magical bogeymen who ruined the Maker’s city. It’s a story. It’s Chantry propaganda," Anders insisted, looking like he might throw up. He’d always been willing to believe, but with an ancient magical creature in front of him, calling to Dumat, claiming to have been one of the magisters who violated the Maker’s golden city, at Dumat’s instruction — it had to be a lie, or he was going to die. Horribly. Very soon.
"What manner of speech is this?" Corypheus said, brow knit in confusion. "How long have I slumbered?"
"He tainted the world," Larius said, awed. "He speaks to all who carry the corruption. Darkspawn, Wardens." He turned to the closest Hawke. "He brought Janeka here. Brought you…"
"First he went after the Maker in His house, then me in mine," Artemis muttered. "I’m honoured." He doubted he could beat Corypheus half to death with a broomstick, however.
Corypheus’s confusion turned to agitation. "The city!" he snarled. "It was supposed to be golden! It was supposed to be ours!" The air trembled with magic in a way that made Fenris’s markings burn. Corypheus turned his attention back to the Hawkes, floating off the dais. "If I cannot leave with you, I will leave through you!"
Eyes wide, Larius turned and ran.
"I seek the light!" Corypheus declaimed.
"Chickenshit," Cormac muttered, glowing indigo for the third time that day. "Pointy things behind him. Artie, behind me. I got shields on all of you, for as long as I’m standing. I go down, you’re on your own. Keep this asshole aimed at me. I can take it."
"Normally this would be the part where I’d either make asshole jokes or dog fart jokes, but I don’t think there’s time." Anton vanished around one side of the dais.
Carver stared up at the magister towering over them. "Why do I think his shields are better than yours?" he asked, before dashing off, the other way.
Cormac took the first shot, ice across the eyes. Not that it would do much damage, but it would keep the thing looking in the right place, as soon as it could see again. He couldn’t quite see Corypheus as a person, for all that he claimed to have once been a magister. That wasn’t human any more, no more than an abomination was.
Anders ducked behind Cormac, at least for the moment. He needed to get his head on. He needed to stop hearing it. Stop seeing it. Those weren’t his memories, and he didn’t want them. He was the easy one. He shouldn’t have come. They needed a healer, but he’d already almost killed Cormac, and this thing wouldn’t get out of his head — if he couldn’t shake it, he was going to do it again. That thing was exactly what it claimed to be. He could see it. He could see all of it. He’d never seen so much lyrium in his life, and the oceans of blood… The dwarves had been involved — they had to have been, but there it was, dwarven merchants delivering crate after crate of raw lyrium. None of it was in the right order, and it all moved so fast. Years, decades of plotting, scrambled into minutes behind his eyes. That sleek-faced magister, in the background — he thought he’d seen that face before, somewhere in his own memories, but… that made no sense. The man was dead a thousand years. Or he’d become this. He was lost in the swirl as the fight raged on around him.
Behind Corypheus, past the archways and balconies was a cliff and a long drop. With the right push, Artemis thought, the battle could be over in moments… assuming that levitating thing didn’t translate into actual flying. Then they were still fucked.
Keeping behind Cormac’s shield, Artie peered around his brother and sent out a wave of force, praying his friends and siblings got out of the way in time if this went the way he wanted it to. It didn’t. The magic slammed into Corypheus, and the magister stilled but wasn’t launched back. Corypheus narrowed his eyes at the brothers, at these pests flinging spells at him.
"Oh fuck," Artemis said at his brother’s ear. "That’s not good."
Corypheus’s spells hit Cormac’s shield, hard enough that the floor shook with the impact. Bethany frantically added her shields to Cormac’s against his onslaught.
With Corypheus’s attention on the mages, warriors and rogues were able to launch their own attacks. It was almost too easy. Corypheus didn’t see him, didn’t even try to dodge or block as Carver raced towards him, sword swinging in a mighty arc —
Only to glance off the air in front of Corypheus without leaving a mark. "Shit," Carver breathed.
Cormac was a little singed. Corypheus was a whole lot more to fend off than Anders had been, but he was also further away, and there was no reason Cormac would lower his shields, in this fight. "Stop looking at me, Bethy! Hex him, or we’re never getting a shot in!"
There was little Cormac could actually do, scraping the bottom of the barrel, already, to keep shields on everyone and the focus on himself. Still, he lashed out with a stun, on the off chance it might buy them a little time. Corypheus wobbled, which was probably a good sign.
"Anders, I need a potion." There was no response and Cormac couldn’t spare the time to look back. "Anders, come on!"
There came a very distinctly Anders sound, from over his shoulder, and it was not a happy sound. It was an ‘Anders is about to wake up not-screaming’ sound. Cormac couldn’t look back, and he let down one layer of shields long enough to lash out with another stun — maybe if he could keep Corypheus off balance…
And then the screaming started. Cormac had heard Justice wind up, but he’d never actually heard Anders scream. The sound shot through him like icy needles.
"I have had enough of your shit! I have had enough of all of you! Get out of my head!"
Cormac saw the shadows change, from behind him, felt the sudden rush of heat, and then Corypheus was engulfed in a pillar of flame. No, he was turning around. He could spare a second or two.
Anders was on fire. Or, more accurately, fire was on Anders. He didn’t seem to be suffering any ill-effects — no burns, no scorching, no blisters — but that was very, very definitely actual fire, from the floor to the ceiling, a metre and a half wide. Anders opened his mouth again and just screamed in wordless rage, everything that had ever been wrong pouring out of him, and the colour of the flame around Corypheus started to shift. The longer the screaming went on, the bluer it burned.
And then the stun wore off.
Cormac threw a barrier around Anders, on top of the shield, as the magister suddenly shifted focus. Okay, Cormac could do this. All he had to do was keep Anders standing. Anders was the new target, instead of him, which was probably bad, but the healer should probably have been in the position of having the most shields right from the start. The screaming did not abate, and parts of the dais seemed to be softening in the ever-increasing heat.
Fenris and Carver exchanged looks with Anton and Isabela. The pillar of fire burned too hot to get within stabbing distance, so they bided their time, weapons ready.
From within the blue fire, Corypheus outstretched his hands and called to the heavens, "I made your sacrifices, Lord. Strengthen me now!" He reached out towards one of the statues, and the stone griffon’s eyes glowed blue in reply. "Dumat! Grant me your powers!"
All four statues glowed in response, and the fire surrounding Corypheus branched out towards the waiting fighters and rogues. They dived in different directions, the heat hitting them but the shields keeping the fires from burning them.
"Is he drawing power from the statues?" Artemis asked Cormac.
Cormac grinned, grey-faced with holding all the shields. "One way to find out, right? Let me frost the railings for you, so they go over easier." He wasn’t sure this was anything resembling a good idea, but they were running short of things to try, and he couldn’t keep up that many shields forever. The indigo glow flickered out around him, and he took a deep breath, before freezing each balcony’s stone railing.
"All yours, Your Shoveliness." Cormac leaned heavily on his staff. He really would be better off with a lyrium potion in him, but there was no way he was reaching for Anders, right now. He wasn’t sure if he was more afraid of the fire or of Anders, himself. He started to wonder if Anders had taken a breath, yet, but he was pretty sure there had been no break in the sound, just a shift from angry howling to shrieking falcon noises and back.
Across the room, Bethany kept lobbing weirder and weirder hexes, in the hope that some of the damage would leak through Corypheus’s shields. Confusion didn’t work, but there were a hundred other tricks up her embroidered sleeves.
Artemis turned towards the statue closest to them and drew in a steadying breath, trying to block out the chaos. He gave one hard shove and the statue cracked against the railing. Another, and it went tumbling over.
Corypheus let out a roar of rage, and a pair of shades shrieked into existence where the statue had stood moments before.
"We’ll handle this!" Fenris called out, markings flashing blue as he charged one shade. "Keep going!"
Artemis nodded and turned to the next statue. One strong shove was enough to knock this one over, and when more shades appeared, it was Carver who charged them head-on.
The other two statues were farther away, and Artie had to duck out from behind Cormac and dodge Corypheus’s jets of fire — why so much fire? — in order to get close enough to hit them. Well, close enough without accidentally taking out his siblings too, that is. The earth started to quake as he approached, and a spike of rock jutted up out of the ground, barely missing his feet. It jostled him enough that he missed the next statue on the first spell and clipped it on the second. His third attempt finally knocked the thing over.
Fenris cut down another shade, and looked up to see Artie scurrying towards the last statue. He held his breath as Artemis knocked that one over as well.
The first sign that something had changed was when Corypheus’s robes actually caught fire. That was no longer just a pillar of blazing blue and white fire around him that had cracked the dome and turned the dais into lumpy, slow-moving slag, it was a pillar of fire with a burning magister in it.
"Blessed Andraste." It was all Cormac could do to stay standing, at that point, especially with the ground shaking as it was, but the barrier helped with that. This was actual damage. That was burning flesh. Anders had managed to set an ancient Tevinter magister aflame, and that magister didn’t seem to be able to get the fire to go out.
"Dumat! Have you forsaken me? I am your faithful servant!" Corypheus cried out, to the whistling cracks in the dome.
Behind Cormac, the screaming finally stopped, and the next words didn’t quite sound like Anders or Justice, but after that much screaming, he couldn’t bring himself to be surprised. "Your god is dead. You are alone."
Still shouting entreaties to Dumat, Corypheus burned away, until finally, even the prayers ceased. Cormac turned just in time to catch Anders, as the fire flickered out and the healer dropped.
"I can’t hear him. It’s stopped." A beatific smile lit Anders’s face, as he passed out cold.
"Shit. Because this is what I need, right now," Cormac grumbled, easing Anders to the ground and rifling his bag for potions. After two lyrium draughts, he stopped looking quite as grey. "Anton? Did anything survive that fire?" Cormac asked, wafting cool breezes in the direction of the slowly-solidifying dais, and the former magister upon it. "I really want to know if that was actually what it claimed to be."
Anton waited until the magister had mostly flickered out, pissing out the last few flickers of flame, before he started to poke at Corypheus’s belongings. An amulet was half-melted into Corypheus’s chest, the flesh more damaged than the runed metal, and Anton found himself weighing the pros and cons of trying to pry it free.
"That amulet…" Fenris crouched beside him, one clawed finger tracing the pendant and cutting it free from its fleshy moorings, "no one’s used that pattern since before the First Blight. It was unique to a small sect in Tevinter who worshipped the god Dumat." A chill shivered down his spine as he thought of the altar below them, the one Anton had also peed on.
"Shit," Anton breathed, picking up the still-warm amulet with the edge of his sleeve. "Are you saying Corypheus actually was an ancient magister? An ancient magister that Anders just set on fire?"
Fenris didn’t answer, mostly because he was afraid to. Just the thought was making his markings itch, even though the magic was gone from the air.
"I’m voting yes on the ‘ancient magister’ thing," Cormac panted, from across the room. The acoustics of the dome were great, even with it cracked. "Which is frankly terrifying, and it means there are six more of them. Threnodies was always the part I remembered."
He pulled Anders into his arms and tried to stand. And then he tried again. Cormac moved his feet a little further apart, and tried again. Somehow, he still wasn’t vertical.
At some point, Bethany had crossed the room, and he first became aware of her when her voice spilled over his shoulder. "Has he been eating the sandwiches, then? Good. I was very worried about how thin your Warden’s cheeks were looking."
"I’m just going to assume you’re talking about his face, because I just don’t have it in me to get as angry as I would need to be about that, otherwise." Cormac scanned the room. "Artie? You still standing?"
"I am," Artemis said, walking over to his brother. The bottom of his robes was a bit singed and he looked a bit wide-eyed, but otherwise he was fine. "Which is more than I can say for you two louts. Is he all right? Are you all right? And before you ask, no, I’m not force pushing either of you anywhere."
"Louts!? No respect, I tell you. None. I see how you are." Cormac grinned up at his brother. "Listen, I made you a promise, and when we get back to town, I want to — well, I want to sleep first, but I want to keep that promise. We just nearly died pretty horribly. If I’m not going to make a liar out of me, I should get to that before we do anything else… exciting. You still in?"
Artemis cleared his throat and took a second to process that before he stammered all over the place. Was Cormac talking about that? Now? "I — yes. I’m still in. That would — yes. Rest first, then — yes." All right, so he stammered all over the place anyway.
Bethany shot them both an odd look, but something in Artie’s expression said she didn’t want to know. "Rest does sound good," she said, "as does a bath. Let’s get our dear Warden out of here, shall we?"
Artemis watched Cormac struggle to lift Anders and turned large eyes on Fenris. "This is quite pitiful, really," he said. "Do you think you could give my mageflower of a brother a hand, my darling, strapping elf?"
Fenris gave Artie a long-suffering look. "Rolling the abomination down the mountain would be faster," he drawled.
"Fuck this. Carver! If I put up a shield, can you do me a favour and just kick us out of here? I’ll get him up the up stairs, if you get us the rest of the way through. I just can’t quite pick him up, yet. Took a little more out of me than I probably should have been giving." Cormac dragged Anders into his lap and adjusted the shields like he used to do when he and Artemis would invent terrible, but fun, things to do with shields and force. "At least we’re not on a river, this time. That was fun, though. The river. Not this. This was the opposite of fun. Would not repeat."
Varric crossed the floor first. "You want Junior to kick you and Blondie down the stairs? This is your plan?"
"This is a damn good plan. I’m sure he wants to kick me anyway." Cormac laughed, and for a moment he was afraid he might not be able to stop.
"I always want to kick you," Carver said, looking at Cormac as though he had grown an extra head, "but that just seems cruel to Magey in your lap, there."
Artie pinched the bridge of his nose. This wouldn’t be the first time Cormac had thrown himself down a set of stairs surrounded by his magic bubble. There was even that one time he convinced Artie to try it, and Maker knew why he agreed to.
"Go ahead," Anton said, grinning. "Artie can always pull them back if they’re about to fall off a cliff."
"Thanks, Anton," Artemis muttered.