[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 87
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Leandra Amell ♀, Anders ♂
Rating: M (L2 N0 S0 V3 D0)
Warnings: Death, necromancy, serial killer, nobody is okay
Notes: White lilies at the door.
"Enchantment?" Sandal asked, looking up at the greying human asking stupid questions.
"No, not enchantment! Leandra! Le-an-dra." Gamlen looked like he was going to strangle someone. Probably Sandal.
"You know, shouting at him isn’t going to make him know more than one word," Cormac said, wandering down the stairs, shoeless, staff in his hand. He’d heard the shouting and assumed something was actually wrong.
"Where’s your mother. Is she feeling all right?" Gamlen sounded like he was actually concerned, which was something new.
"I’m tempted to say she isn’t, just to see your face," Cormac joked.
"Your mother didn’t show up for lunch. Is she ill? She is here, isn’t she?"
"You owe somebody money? Is that it?" Cormac scoffed, squinting at his uncle. "I’m fairly sure no one would be stupid enough to kidnap Lady Amell over one of your debts. You have a daughter. There’s the obvious choice."
"Is a man not allowed to be concerned about his own sister?" Gamlen roared.
Cormac opened his mouth, but Bodhan cut him off. "We haven’t seen her all day, Gamlen."
"Where could she be?" Gamlen asked, still looking more nervous than not.
"Out with Dulci de Launcet, most like. She probably just forgot it was Sunday." Cormac didn’t seem concerned at all. His mother was in the habit of gallivanting about town with nobles from all over the Marches and Orlais.
"With her suitor, perhaps?" Bodhan suggested.
"Suitor? Don’t be ridiculous. If mum was dating, we’d all know about it. She’d be frolicking through the house adding flowers to everything." Cormac laughed, imagining his mother working herself into a state over some grand Orlesian so-and-so.
"Well, those lilies arrived for her this morning." Bodhan pointed.
Cormac turned grey, eyes widening as he spotted the flowers. "Lilies… White lilies…" His heart stopped for a second. "Anton! Bethany!" He kept shouting as he ran up the stairs for his boots. "Move! We have a problem!"
"What? Shouting? Why is there shouting?" Bethany asked, appearing in the doorway with staff in hand. She all but barreled into Anton, who appeared as if from nowhere, fully dressed, and with a knife tucked into his palm.
"No idea," Anton answered, steadying her. "My first thought was ‘not another goat’, but Cormac wouldn’t be shrieking like that over some farmland animal. I hope." His second thought was ‘templars’, but he knew he didn’t need to say it. But he’d just come back from lunch with his own templar. Cullen would have warned him, wouldn’t he? No, best not to think about that. "Get dressed. Quickly. I’ll see what’s the matter."
Bethany nodded and flew back into her room. After years on the run, she knew had to get ready in a hurry. She still had a knapsack full of essentials, ready to be snatched up at a moment’s notice.
Anton followed Cormac into his room. "What’s happened?" he asked.
Carver appeared at the bottom of the stairs. "Why does no one ever shout for me?"
"Because I only have to shout for one of you, and both of you show up!" Cormac called out, before answering Anton, still at the top of his lungs, so everyone could hear him, while he got his boots on. "Mum’s missing. Someone sent white lilies. Anton, go with Gamlen — take Carver with you. She was supposed to go see him for lunch, so there’s a good chance she got grabbed between here and there. Bethy, get Artie and meet me downstairs. In Darktown. I’m going to go get Anders, if we’re not still there, I’ll leave a note. I’d tell you where we’re going, but he knows that and I don’t. Bodhan, send two messengers to explain the situation, one to Aveline, one to Cullen. If we don’t come back, someone needs to know where we went. Again, note in the clinic. Don’t take it with you, Bethy."
Swapping his staff for his glaive, Cormac stepped out of the room, patted himself down, and ran for the stairs to the cellar. "Questions? Hurry the fuck up."
Artemis was too occupied with Fenris to hear the knock on the front door, even if it was less of a knock and more of a slam.
"Messere Hawke!" Orana called up stairs. "Your sister is here to —"
"Artie!" came Bethany’s voice, making Artemis swear and jump. "Get your staff and your big boy pants! We have an emergency!"
"I hate when emergencies involve pants," Artemis muttered to Fenris before pulling away and scrambling about for his clothes. "What’s going on?" he shouted through the open door.
There was a pause, and then, "Artie, it’s mum. She’s missing. Anton said to tell you ‘white lilies’ and that you’d know what that means."
Artemis’s face drained of colour, and Fenris sat up, looking concerned.
"I have to go," Artie said, throwing on his tunic and boots in record time before snatching up his staff from where he’d left it by the bed. He was out the door before Fenris could ask what was going on.
Anders was midway through healing a young woman’s broken finger, when Cormac rushed in, grey-faced and wide eyed. "Where’s my—" he started, but Cormac cut him off.
"Gascard Du Puis. My mother. White lilies. Where is Gascard Du Puis?" Cormac’s hands clenched and unclenched over and over, but he managed not to grab Anders’s shoulders.
Anders finished the healing and muttered something sympathetic to the woman, before waving her toward the front of the clinic. "Is anyone dying?" he called out. "Because if you’re not dying, you should come back tomorrow, because I have to go make sure someone doesn’t die."
He squeezed Cormac’s arm and ran to get his staff. "I know where he is. I knew we’d need to know, eventually."
"Leave a note for Bethy. She’ll be following us." Cormac moved between the patients at the front of the clinic, healing a few cuts and scrapes, while Anders wrote. Something to do with all the nervous energy, oher than just sit and twitch.
"Cormac." Anders took his hand. "We’ll get her back."
They set off into the tunnels at a swift clip, Anders leading the way. He wasn’t going to let this happen.
Anton, Carver, and Gamlen searched the road Leandra usually took from the estate to her brother’s, with the dog. Within five minutes, Gamlen looked ready to strangle an urchin.
"Yeah, I saw her," said the boy, and Anton excused himself from the lady shopkeeper he’d been questioning to head over. "Don’t see too many women dressed like that around here."
"Did you see where she went?" Gamlen asked.
The boy offered him a sly smile, squinting at Gamlen through a bruised eye. "What do I get for telling you?"
"You get me not bruising your other eye, that’s what," Carver growled. Anton rolled his eyes and nudged Carver back behind him.
"Here’s a few silver," Anton said, offering the boy a handful of coin. "Buy yourself some food. And new shoes. And go see the healer, tomorrow — I can promise you he’s not there, today."
"It’s just a black eye," the boy muttered, examining the coins. After a moment, he gasped. "That’s real silver, it is! I’m your man, through and through! Tell you everything I know." He stuck the coins into his pocket. "That lady was here. She looked like she was going to take the bridge to Hightown. But then a man came up to her. Stumbled and fell over right at her feet, like he was dead. He had blood on his hands, like he’d been in a fight. The lady shook him and I think he said, ‘Help.’ She got him to his feet and he was wobbly — it was funny. Anyway, they left and… that’s all I saw."
"If he’s hurt her," Carver said, fists tight at his side, "I will kill him."
"There might be a line," Anton replied. To the boy, he said, "Did you see where they went?"
"The man left some blood… where he fell over," said the boy, pointing deeper into Lowtown, towards what looked like a dark stain of.. something, that the dog appeared to have already found. "You could follow it."
"Always blood, isn’t it?" Anton sighed, exchanging a look with Carver. "Every time."
Gamlen was starting to look ill. "Why don’t you do what the boy says?" he suggested. "I’ll just… go home in case Leandra shows up."
Mintaka barked from next to the blood stain, thumping his tail on the ground.
As they approached the far end of some abandoned mining tunnel, Anders pointed, and Cormac followed. "Gascard!" Anders called out.
"Anders? What’s the trouble? Is it a plague?" Gascard looked up, confused, from the herbs he was cutting.
"No, you — you remember my friend Anton? This is his brother. The killer you’re looking for, we think he took their mother." Anders put his arm around Cormac’s waist, to steady him.
"That’s… not good. I didn’t expect him to strike again, so soon. Alessa, the woman Anton took from me, the killer took her, not long after she fled. Just as I predicted. I have enough of her blood left for one ritual. I can use it to track them." Gascard tucked his knife back into his belt.
"Wait, you could have tracked the killer this whole time? Why haven’t you done it?" Cormac looked like he might strangle the guy, and Anders held onto him a little tighter.
"I lost the power to confront him, when your brother destroyed my shades," Gascard drawled, laying the blame quite firmly at Anton’s feet. "But, if you come with me, we could confront him now. He’ll be no match for three of us."
"There’s going to be more than three of us," Cormac assured him. "At least five, probably six, maybe eight or nine, if the rest of us catch up. He’s not getting through all of us. Do it. Use the blood. I have to find my mother."
Gascard led the way to the alcove where he’d been living, a sheet hung behind some mine carts blocking the entrance. "Wait here, a moment. My new home is not large enough for company."
A moment later, he stepped out with a vial of something dark — presumably Alessa’s blood — and his staff. "Stand back. Blood magic is… sometimes unpredictable. But, if there is anything left of Alessa in this world, this ritual will find it."
Crushing the vial in his hand, Gascard drove the shards of glass into his palm, and began to cast, a red glow radiating from him, as the spell took hold.
"Idiot," Anders muttered. "Why is it always the palm?"
Two figures appeared out of the tunnel behind them. "Why, fancy meeting you here," Bethany greeted them. Her charming smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. "By the way, Anders, your handwriting is atrocious."
Artemis frowned at the glowing mage in front of them. "Blood magic. Right." It was probably for the best that he hadn’t waited for Fenris. Staff tapping nervously against the ground, Artie looked about them. "Five of us here, all mages. And he’s using blood magic. Meredith would have kittens."
Meredith would have them killed, but best not to think about that. And he wasn’t about to stop Gascard, not if this was going to help them find their mother.
"Incidentally," he said to Anders, "when this is over and Mum is safe, I will be cleaning your clinic."
Before Anders could respond, the glowing stopped, and Gascard staggered to his knees.
Cormac helped Gascard to his feet. "Can you find her?"
Gascard nodded and set off, wordlessly, leaving them to follow him. It was a relatively short walk, leading to the Foundry District of Lowtown, and then into one of the foundries.
"This looks familiar," Anders muttered. "All those years ago, isn’t this where we found the remains? The first victims?"
"He’s been in the same place this whole time? How did we not find him, the first time?" Cormac looked sick, in that way he did when he knew something was his fault. "Mum’s here, somewhere. Find her."
"Blood on the floor," Anders pointed out, before the door behind them cracked against the wall.
"We were following the blood," Anton said, blinking, surprisedly into the dim room. "How did you—?"
"We were following the other blood. You remember Messere du Puis?" Cormac gestured at the blood mage. "And there’s still blood. If you were following it, that’s probably the best choice."
Carver was on it, before Cormac finished talking, racing up the stairs on the far side of the room. "Up here! It leads up here!"
"Mintaka," Anton addressed the dog and pointed to the door. "Go wait for backup. Either the guards or the templars are probably coming. Show them where we are."
The dog barked and squeezed back out the door, to wait.
They followed Carver and the blood trail up and around the foundry, to a trap door leading back down into the space between this building and the next. A hidden room, of sorts. More stairs down, and they were definitely below the level of the ground. Here the blood trail finally ended, after a few trace spatters.
Gascard pushed past Carver and kept walking. "We’re close," he said, eyes wide and unfocused as if he were seeing something they weren’t. "This way."
Artie picked at the staff in his hands, his father’s old staff. He looked back at the last of the blood trail and fought down the irrational urge to clean it. If he cleaned it up, all of it, maybe their mother would be all right at the end of this.
Bethany slid her arm through his and kept him facing forward. "She’s fine," she told him with a confidence Artemis wished he had. "She’s put up with us for how many years? She can handle herself."
The air filled with the stink of sulphur, and Anders’s skin crackled blue as he grabbed Gascard and pulled him back. "Demons," he said. A rage demon and a herd of shades sprang out of the ground.
"Of course there are demons," Anton muttered. "There are always demons in Kirkwall." He slid into the shadows, daggers in hand, while the mages let loose the first wave.
They were good at demons, by now, largely because, as Anton pointed out, every time someone stubbed their toe, in Kirkwall, there were demons. A few shades and a rage demon weren’t much contest, and they hammered through the lot of them, swiftly. Well, Artie hammered through them. Cormac and Anders just held them down, while Bethany made them easier to hit. It was over in a matter of moments, and Carver barely got but a few swings in.
Anders grabbed Cormac’s shoulder and pointed to where a woman lay on her side, on a bench. The right hair, a similar build… Cormac ran across the room to roll the woman onto her back. "It’s not her," he breathed. The woman was already dead, and the body cold.
"That’s Alessa," Gascard pointed out, stepping up next to Cormac.
Gascard had said she’d been taken months ago. If she was just dead, now…
Anton and Carver were already tearing the room apart for bodies, living or dead, but there was only the one. They moved on, Cormac’s face still grey and stricken. There was still time. Months. She’d just vanished in the morning. There would still be time.
Gascard’s trail had ended with Alessa, but their mother had to be around here somewhere. Anton was torn between hoping they found her and hoping they didn’t. A glint of metal on the ground caught his eye, and he bent to pick it up, holding it to the light.
"Mum’s locket," Anton breathed, recognising the shape. He dusted it off and showed it to his siblings before slipping it into his pocket. "She’s definitely here." He looked as ashen faced as his brothers.
Bethany looked the calmest of all of them, but she had her hand in Artie’s now and was all but squeezing the life out of it. "Then we’re in the right place," she said, nodding at Anton to continue on.
Down another set of stairs, and they found themselves in a wide open chamber, dusty furniture set up in imitation of a living room. "Does he… live here?" Carver asked, lip curling.
"Well, he’s certainly not living upstairs, or he’d have been caught by now," Anders pointed out, picking up a letter from a nearby table. "Looks like he’s been trading secrets with someone inside the Circle. Books? Hm. I think I’ll hold on to this."
More shades appeared, as he tucked it into his coat.
"Kirkwall. Demons." Cormac lashed out with a wall of ice. "Can we move somewhere less… I don’t know… demony? How about back to Ferelden? I hear Gwaren’s lovely."
"Amaranthine wasn’t terrible. Not too many demons. Had a bad darkspawn infestation, the last time I was through, though," Anders joked, paralysing anything he could reach.
"Shit! Fuck! Anders!" Anton complained from somewhere amid the shades.
"Sorry!" Anders eased up a bit, and Anton darted back, before the ground glowed green again.
Artemis swore, pulling back on his spell at the last second. He’d been aiming at that glow of green. "Maker dammit, Anton! Do you want me to slam your face into the ground again?" He recast, the spell thankfully catching nothing but shades on the way down, slamming their — well, the closest things they had to faces, really — into the ground instead.
"What am I supposed to do?" Anton called back. "Stand here and look pretty while you mages do all the work?" Lightning arced past him from fuck knows where. He swore. "Fine! I’ll just stand here!"
"Don’t sulk, Anton," Bethany said, she and Carver wiping out the last shades. "You’re very good at standing and looking pretty!"
"As opposed to Artie, who’s very good at bending over and looking pretty," Cormac teased, shields still up.
Anton made a face, but Artemis turned bright red. He checked to make sure his brother’s shields were still up before force pushing him into the wall.
"Why do you know that?" Carver demanded. "That’s disgusting!"
"How do you not know that?" Cormac laughed, staggering as he dropped to his feet again. "You’re part of this family! You punch me every time he does that!"
"Boys, boys…" Bethany stepped forward. "Our mother can probably hear you."
Cormac turned a colour, which looked much better than the grey he’d been sporting since they’d been told. "Yeah, let’s go get her out of here."
"What’s this?" Anton murmured, spotting a painting, on the way out of the room. "Looks like mum."
"Some kind of shrine?" Anders postulated. "Dedicated to his wife? His sister? Maybe his mother?"
"Okay, that’s creepy," Cormac said. "Finding her. Now."
In the next room, a man stood over a woman seated in a chair. He looked up as they entered. "I was wondering when you’d show up. Leandra was so sure you’d come for her."
"Mother always knew us best," Anton cracked, grinning unpleasantly.
"Yes, and she spoke so fondly of you. What a lovely, gentle woman," the man went on. He smiled fondly down at the seated woman. Leather creaked as Carver clenched his sword hilt tighter.
"Quentin!" Gascard growled.
The man — Quentin? — looked up at him, eyebrows lifting in the barest surprise. "Gascard? So you’ve reached me after all these years. I figured you gave up."
"Why? Are you afraid? Were you hoping Gascard would’ve forgotten what you did?" Bethany smiled pleasantly.
"Afraid? Of Gascard?" Quentin laughed. "No, Gascard respects me too much to kill me."
"Oh, yes, because you always respect the man who killed your sister. Are you having us on?" Cormac drawled. "I think he’s having us on."
"That or a certain special someone hasn’t been telling us the truth!" Bethany chirped from behind Gascard.
"Didn’t he tell you? Oh, I don’t suppose he did." Quentin smiled, eyes sharp.
"Shut up, old man! I’m going to learn your secrets. Everything you kept from me." Gascard stepped forward, trying to elbow Artemis aside, and taking an elbow in the gut for his troubles. The force mage did not mean to be moved. Gascard shoved Cormac to the side, instead, and despite being much thicker, Cormac actually moved.
"Sorry to interrupt this lovely student-teacher reunion," Anton cut in, "but where is my mother?"
"Listen to me," Gascard urged. "We can take him. Once he’s dead, you’ll have your mother back, and I’ll have all his notes."
"I’m sorry, Gascard. When my wife died, I lost all hope. I wasn’t able to be the mentor you deserved." Quentin turned away, moving back toward the woman in the chair, who still sat strangely silent, turned away from them. "But, now, my work is finished, and I can teach you as I always meant to. Come back to me, Gascard."
"You’ll let me be part of this? You’ll teach me the secrets of necromancy?" Gascard looked tempted, but like he hardly dared believe.
"Tch. Necromancy. Is that all? I could have taught you necromancy," Bethany sighed. "There’s no need to run around killing people, when you can just steal corpses, instead."
"Or get people to kill each other," Cormac reminded Bethany.
"Details!" Bethany flicked her hand, dismissively.
Gascard shot them both a disbelieving look. Quentin beckoned to him, one hand outstretched. "I will keep nothing from you," Quentin said. "You know my powers. They cannot offer you what I can."
Gascard was walking towards him before he finished talking.
"Seriously?" Artemis shouted. "This man is clearly a nutcase!"
"A powerful nutcase," Gascard agreed. He turned back to Quentin, then stopped, back going rigid and a choked sound of pain catching in his throat. He slumped to the ground, a knife protruding from his ribs.
Everyone looked at Anton, who shrugged, a cold smile on his lips and another knife already in his hand.
Quentin sighed as though greatly put upon. "Pity, that," he said. With a twist of his fingers, he raised Gascard’s new corpse, limbs hanging like a marionette on strings. "But he can still be useful."
Bethany cursed, under her breath. She hadn’t been quite quick enough — but, she wasn’t used to being in a room with another necromancer! It wasn’t like they were common in most places!
"And now, you will witness my greatest achievement," Quentin went on, resting a hand on the back of the chair. "Do you know what the most powerful force in the universe is?" He paused, but not long enough for anyone to answer. "Love." Stroking the woman’s hair, he turned back toward the others, toward where Gascard stood lifeless, between them. "I pieced her together from memory. I found her eyes, her skin, her delicate fingers… And at last, her face. Oh, this beautiful face."
The woman stood at Quentin’s fingers on her cheek, and he continued to speak, now to her. "I’ve searched far and wide to find you, beloved, and no force on this earth will part us."
"Everything I’ve ever said about love?" Anders pointed toward the necromancer and his zombie bride. "Exhibit number two."
Cormac swallowed the rush of nausea. "Artie, if I ever raise you from the dead, I promise to use your corpse for it. Guaran-fucking-teed."
"What about me?" Anton complained.
"What about you?" Cormac laughed.
Then the zombie bride turned around, and the laughing stopped. "Mum?" Carver said weakly, disbelieving. He stared at her face and dead eyes, at the suture marks around her neck. "No. No."
The floor trembled under his feet. He turned to see Artie with his eyes wide, shaking so hard his teeth chattered. Next to him, Cormac was screaming, and between the two of them, Carver found it best to back away.
Quentin looked down at the ground and hurried to cast, but Cormac’s Crushing Prison reached him first. Quentin’s eyes bugged out, shoulders hunching and bones creaking, sounds of pain hissing through grit teeth. And then force knocked him back into the wall, again and again.
Cormac’s fist clenched tighter, the scream giving way to a hysterical giggle as Quentin’s eyes worked themselves out of his face. None of them had ever seen quite that look on Cormac, the grin so wide it looked like the top of his head might shear off, eyes glittering with equal amounts of wrath and glee. "Hit him again Artie! If you can break him down small enough, I bet I can squeeze all the water out. We’ll have a necromantic bouillon cube! Just in case you ever need corpse soup or something." He cackled for a moment. "Bethy? Are there any Nevarran uses for dehydrated cubes of blood mage? Blood mage sans blood?"
Bethany had stepped back, fan opened across her face. Her eyes sparkled, context-free, above it. "I don’t know." Her voice seemed distant. "I can always check. I can always find a use… I’m very good with corpses."
Anton hung back, afraid to get between the mages and their target. He’d already made that mistake once, today. He shot a look at Anders, who was already wrapped around Cormac’s back, chin resting on his head. Anton figured if it worked for Justice, maybe it would work on Cormac, too… But, at the same time, he wasn’t sure he wanted Cormac to calm down. He couldn’t feel his fingers any more, and he glanced down as his other dagger clattered against the ground. Artemis seemed to be taking it better than Cormac, or that was what he thought, until he realised that wasn’t just him vibrating from the stress, it was the entire room shaking. That was fine, too. Everything was fine, just like it always was. It was just Kirkwall. Demons, demons, and everything’s fine.
Artemis counted the number of times he slammed Quentin into the wall in intervals of three. One, two, three. One, two, three. Like a waltz. He didn’t feel the ground shaking or his eyes burning. He just focused on turning this monster into paste but barely noticed when he and Cormac did. He only stopped when his mana ran out, and Quentin was a bloody smear on the wall, or a… whatever shape Cormac had crushed him into. Artemis slumped to his knees, his insides feeling raw and wrung out and vision grey at the edges.
Leandra — or the creature with Leandra’s face — tottered towards her children for a few steps, only to falter, collapsing like a puppet with her strings cut. Anders was the only one fast enough to catch her, hooking his hands under her armpits and laying her out on the ground. He kicked away Gascard’s corpse, which had fallen over, motionless, too.
Cormac let Anders handle the zombie. However many people it had been, it was none of them, now. He turned to Artemis, taking his brother’s beautiful face in his hands and tilting it up. Still hysterical, he wondered if his own tear-streaked face looked as good, and doubted it. His beard hadn’t even finished growing back, yet. Crouching, he pressed his lips to Artemis’s, kissing him fiercely, but surprisingly chastely. He brushed the hair back from Artemis’s face. "We’ll be all right. I promise you." His voice shook like he shouldn’t have been promising anything. "Let’s just get her out of here."
Artie’s head was full of white noise, but he nodded as though he were listening. He clutched at Cormac’s arms tight enough to bruise.
"Anders?" Cormac asked, raising his voice a little, but not turning away from his brother, whose grip seemed like it might become permanent.
"There’s nothing to be done. The magic that was keeping her alive—"
Leandra’s voice cut Anders off. "Cormac? I knew you would come."
"Mum! Do something, Anders! Fix it! Make her better!" Cormac staggered to his feet, grabbing Artemis’s arms and pulling him along. "We’re all here, mum. We all came for you, and we’re getting you out of here."
The siblings crowded around, at the sound of their mother’s voice, and Anders actually started trying. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much he could do with dead flesh, no matter how much spirit it had. And with that came another disturbing realisation.
"No, no." Leandra hushed him. "Don’t fret, darling. That man would have kept me trapped in here, but thanks to you, I’m free." She smiled, which looked a little out of place on her bloodless face. "I get to see your father again. But, you… Take care of them, Cormac."
"I always do," Cormac said, with a sad smile.
"And don’t drive your brother mad," Leandra said a little more loudly.
"Too late for that," Anton joked, weakly, unsure where he’d even come up with the strength to speak.
"My children have become so strong." Leandra smiled again. "I love you. You’ve all made me so proud. Even you, Carver. Marry your elf, and be proud. Both of you, I suppose. The same to you, Artemis. This world is not the one I was young in. You take care of my son, apostate."
"Yes, my lady." Anders was surprised she’d addressed him at all.
"Mum, don’t go…" Cormac started to shake, grip tightening on Artemis’s arms.
Leandra just smiled one more time, slumped against Anders, and she was gone. The siblings and Anders stood and knelt in silence for a heavy moment. Bethany was the first to move, wiping at her cheeks with the heel of one hand.
"We should get her out of here," she said, her voice surprising her with its steadiness. She had to keep it together right now. Her brothers were all kinds of a mess right now. "Anders, do you mind carrying her?" She didn’t wait for his answer, already knowing what it would be, and walked over to what was left of Quentin, which was smaller than her palm. She picked it up and slipped it into a pouch by her hip. Her brother knew better than to ask.
When Bethany turned back around, Anders was standing with Leandra in his arms, her head cradled on his shoulder as though she were sleeping. At least they’d found her, in the end.