[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 92
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Bethany Hawke ♀, Fenris ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Notes: Family is always so very complicated.
Bethany had an assortment of gems and statues arranged on tables and stools, around the library. She kept looking down into the book in her hand and pointing, occasionally adjusting the placement of an artefact. As she picked up her quill, to make a note about the path of reflected light, Bodhan appeared in the doorway, leading Fenris.
"Messere Fenris to see you," Bodhan said, bowing out. Bethany’s work made him just as nervous as it made everyone else. Even a dwarf wasn’t immune to the creepiness of some of those statues.
"Oh! Fenris!" Bethany glanced around the room. "Let’s not have this conversation here. Come upstairs. I haven’t got anything arranged on the upper level." She waved him around the outer edge of the elliptical ring of objects. "Just working out some issues of colour and reflection in the original design of this tomb. I’m sure the last scholar to excavate, there, was looking at it all wrong." Shaking her head, she led Fenris up the stairs, noticing how fidgety and quiet he was. "But, you’ve come to see me… That’s unusual. What can I do for you?"
Fenris toyed with the straps of his gauntlets as he spoke. "I… could use your expertise," he said.
"Oh?" Bethany’s eyebrows arched. "My expertise as what? A scholar? A mage? A woman with exquisite taste in fashion?"
Bethany paused in the hallway, turning to look at him. He seemed to have a hard time standing still, and she wondered if he’d picked up that habit from Artemis. "Well, you’ve piqued my interest," she said with a polite smile. "Shall I send for some tea?"
"No. Thank you." Fenris shifted from foot to foot, finally turning to clutch at the railing, looking down into the necromantic decor, below. Perhaps that hadn’t been the best idea. "I am told I have a sister. I know not what to believe."
"I think Anton mentioned that. A magister told you this, in exchange for her life?" Bethany knew it had surprised Anton, at the time. Less the idea that Fenris had family, but that he didn’t know it.
"In exchange for my word that I would not harm her." Fenris smiled slyly over his shoulder. "I didn’t. Artemis did." He turned back around, leaning on the rail. "But, the problem remains. I don’t know. I feel like I should write to her, but I don’t know if she knows me, either. But, if … I watch your family, and I think of what it might have been like to have one of my own."
"You want to know if you should write to her?" Bethany asked.
"I… yes." The Hawke siblings bemused and fascinated Fenris. The stories they told of growing up together, the way they sniped and bickered but always looked out for each other at the end of the day. He left Artemis and Cormac’s complicated relationship out of these musings. "And, if so, I… was rather hoping you could help me compose a letter. Artemis is teaching me, but my skills are not… That is, I would need help." The tips of his gauntlets clacked against the rail, and Bethany knew he’d picked up that nervous tapping from her brother.
"I would certainly help you, of course," Bethany said. She reached over to take his tapping, clawed hand in hers, the way she would for Artie. "But I can’t make that decision for you."
Fenris held his hand stiffly in hers but didn’t pull away. "But if it were you?" he asked. "What would you do?"
Bethany shrugged. "I’d be itching with curiosity," she said.
"What do I say? How do I know she’s even real? What if this is just another magister’s trick?" Fenris looked very quietly panicked, round eyes settling on Bethany’s face.
"Let’s take that last question, first. What if she is a trick? You fought a magister older than the Blights. Why would another one be a problem? We’re not going to let anything happen to you, Fenris. And you’re not going to let anything happen to Artemis. So, I don’t really think it matters if she isn’t real. The worst you’ll be is disappointed, in the long run." Bethany smiled at him. "But, I know you’re not afraid of that. What are you worried about? That she won’t like you? What’s not to like? You’re a nobleman, now. You’re well-spoken and polite. You’re generous and kind. I haven’t even heard you threaten Anders in weeks!"
"I ran away and left her. But, I didn’t know she was there! I didn’t even know she existed!" There was that panicked look again. "But, you… you’d never leave one of your brothers. They’d never leave you. I left her behind."
"If she blames you for that, she’s wrong," Bethany insisted. "She can blame that magister, what’s his name? It’s his fault you don’t remember, isn’t it?"
"Danarius," Fenris said, his voice a growl, the name a weight on his tongue. "And, yes, I… suppose that is true. But what if she doesn’t remember me?" He knew nothing about her, not even her age. What if she’d been so young that she didn’t even remember him either?
"Then you’ll be on even ground, won’t you?" Bethany said with a patient smile. It did nothing to erase the wide-eyed panic on Fenris’s face. "But, Fenris? Even if she doesn’t remember you, even if she’s not real or doesn’t respond… you already have a family. You know that, don’t you?"
Fenris’s eyes were wide then in something other than panic, and Bethany chuckled.
"You’re marrying into the Hawkes," she said. "We’re rather a lot more family than most can handle."
And Fenris had to smile at that. A family. The Hawkes. Even Anders calling him an ‘asshole little brother’.
"Do you want to do this?" Bethany asked, and Fenris nodded.
"I do. You’ll… help me not sound a fool?" He still looked nervous.
"You’re not going to sound like a fool, anyway, but yes. I’ll help you sound like a proud Kirkwall noble, just like you’ve become." Bethany smiled and darted downstairs. "I just have to get some ink and paper. We’ll do this up there, where it’s less… Nevarran. I’m sure you don’t want ancestor-worship statues staring at you while we do this!"
Fenris finally laughed. "As long as they’re not my ancestors, I don’t think I have anything to worry about!"
As Cullen walked through the gardens, he kept an eye out for any goat-related surprises. The furry terror had chewed holes in the topiary, and in some places Cullen could see through them clear to the other side. Then the goat had made up for what plants it had eaten by… fertilising the rest.
Bodhan had assured Cullen that Anton would be with him shortly, the dwarf’s cheerfulness dampened by the grim look on the templar’s face. And Cullen wondered if it was bad idea to come here straight from the Gallows, still in full plate, considering what he’d come to talk about. It was not a conversation he was looking forward to, armour or no armour.
"Maeh?" the goat greeted him, and Cullen welcomed the distraction.
"We meet again," he said. The goat bleated again, a bit of hay hanging out of its mouth. A pile of the stuff had been thrown there for the goat, and Cullen wondered if Bodhan or the Hawkes had the slightest how to care for the poor animal. At least the goat seemed more interested in the hay than in his clothes, this time. Templar skirts were a disaster to fix.
"Well, hello, Captain!" The door into the garden closed behind Anton, who was all smiles and charm. "I wasn’t expecting you, today. Fancy another picnic?"
For a moment, Cullen almost said yes. Almost pushed his concerns aside and gave in — it was Anton. He loved Anton. "I’m afraid I’m not here for the horseradish," he managed, almost smiling. "I’m… I didn’t mean to be wearing this, either. I’m sorry. I didn’t think of how that would look."
"Looks great on you, like it always does." Anton looked completely confused, as he slid his arms around Cullen and kissed him. "Slow down. What’s wrong?"
"I know your brother is a mage," Cullen sighed.
"You know no such thing." Anton smiled slyly. "If you had suspicions, you’d have named a brother. Try again."
"I know it’s not you or Carver. I was there, Anton. I saw your father clean up after it. One of your brothers is a mage, and I think it’s Cormac." That made the most sense to Cullen — the father was an apostate, the son who looked most like his father was likely to be the other mage in the family. "That was the first time I ever saw magic. I don’t think I was five, yet. But, I never forgot that man’s face, when his son destroyed that room. You said your father looked just like Cormac, and that’s the face I remember. One of your brothers is a mage."
The bemused smile never left Anton’s face, and Anton’s face never betrayed his reaction. It was one thing when Cullen had knocked on their door looking for Bethany. All he’d had were rumours, speculations from some third party. But this? Anton knew the exact moment Cullen was talking about. He’d been in the house, one room over when the walls had shaken with the force of… something hitting them. He remembered the shatter of glass and the crack of wood, his brother’s screams. Anton had been a child too, but that sort of thing wasn’t easy to forget.
Except that Cullen had been off on one detail: that had been Artemis, not Cormac.
"Really?" Anton said, arcing one eyebrow. "Twenty years ago you saw a child manifest magic, whose dad might have looked like mine, and you just assume that was my family?" Anton cupped Cullen’s cheek. "Cullen, darling, you’re not making sense. Have you been pushing yourself too hard again?"
"A family with a father who looked like your brother. I found the letters. I know where the Order lost your father. Your father the apostate. Five children, and no mages? I doubt that. I’d doubt it anyway, but with no proof, I just kept looking away. I know your father was in the Circle, here. I know he came in on the recommendation of the First Enchanter from Perendale. I also know, after he fled, that the recommendation was checked, and no such letter was ever written. I know there was a templar who helped him escape." Here, Cullen nearly smiled again. "And I know your youngest brother was probably named after him. I know we tracked your family to Highever, when … when Solona’s parents sent your mother a letter. Magic in your mother’s blood, too, it seems. And I know the man we sent was never found. We lost your father, after that. No more letters. He disappeared, and we didn’t have a phylactery for him, because he’d never actually been a circle mage. Snuck in and right back out."
Cullen put his arms around Anton, resting his steel braces on Anton’s hips. "I sent a letter to Highever. We found that missing templar. I know your father was a force mage, and from the description, that looks like force. But, I look at you, and I don’t know if I can blame him. He ran, never caused any trouble we heard about again, and raised a son like you. I love you, Anton. And I know what I’m supposed to do. What I don’t know is what I’m going to do. You know I’m right. You didn’t laugh, when I said it. You didn’t deny it. I don’t know what I’m going to do."
Damn it. Why did the fool templar have to be smart as well as pretty. Anton knew denying wouldn’t help him at this stage, not anymore. The best he could do was mitigate the situation. "How about you… don’t do anything?" He held up a hand to stop Cullen when he opened his mouth to speak. "At least not right now, please. He hasn’t harmed anyone. He’s contributed to the city." Anton sucked in a breath. "I’ve just lost my mum. Please don’t take away my brother too." And, all right, perhaps that was cheating, playing the guilt card, pairing it with a set of sad eyes.
At least Cullen didn’t suspect that there was more than one mage in his family. At least not yet, and that was a sobering thought. How long had Anton expected to keep that secret with a templar around all the time? The Knight-Captain no less?
The goat interrupted with a bleat, headbutting Cullen’s leg.
"I’m so sorry." Cullen pulled Anton closer. "Of course. I couldn’t — not now. I don’t know what to do, but I’m not going to do it now." He kissed Anton, gently, and then let go, backing away a few steps. "This just… It’s a huge thing to have kept from me, and I know why. I do. I just… what are we doing, Anton? Where is this going? I love you so very much, and I don’t know what I’m going to do, at all, about any of this."
"I’m sorry," he said, still backing up. "I have to go. I promise not to make any decisions without telling you. I promise I’ll tell you first."
Anton watched Cullen all but flee from him. He hoped Cullen would keep that promise but knew better than to trust it, even if he trusted Cullen.
"I have no idea what I’m going to do either," Anton murmured, long after Cullen was gone.
Cormac stood on the far side of the bed, book in one hand, muttering to himself, an indigo halo surrounding his translucent body. "No, that’s not quite…" He caught the motion of the door in the mirror and turned. "Anton? No knocking?"
"Well, I didn’t hear any screaming, so I figured it wasn’t going to be anything too scarring." Anton leaned his hip against the dresser. "I just had an extremely unpleasant conversation with Cullen. Apparently he’s decided you’re a mage. I can’t fault most of his logic — he did his research. I can fault the conclusion, though, because he picked the wrong mage."
"Didn’t he originally come for Bethany?" Cormac asked, looking back toward the mirror and making a few subtle gestures. He faded in and back out.
"Yes, but he saw Artie. That time in Honnleath? Where Cullen’s from? Yeah. I mentioned you looked just like dad, and he… I don’t know, he remembered. Still assumed it was you." Anton rubbed his face, frustratedly.
"How long do I have until the nice gentlemen in platemail show up at the door?" Cormac asked, figuring he’d cut through the cellar, grab Anders, and make for Tantervale.
"I’m not sure they will," Anton told Cormac’s reflection. "Cullen said he hadn’t decided on what to do yet, but that he would tell me first when he did. He also said that it wouldn’t be ‘right away’, after mum and all." Anton sighed, ran a hand through his hair. "And I think he means it. I don’t think he’s even capable of lying, to be honest."
"He may not think he’s lying. I’m sure he’s quite serious." Cormac finally did… something, and the entire room seemed to ripple, for a moment. He smiled to himself and nodded. "Far be it for me to interfere in your relationship, but woo that man, Anton. Keep him close. I know you don’t do serious, and I’m not asking you to, but … I’ll pay for you to take him to lunch and dinner, as many times as it needs to happen." Cormac sighed. "I shouldn’t put this on you. It’s me he’s after. Might be time for me to take a holiday or something."
"There’s already been plenty of ‘wooing’," Anton said, "and plenty of ‘seducing’ and plenty of other verbs that could be applied to this situation." Cormac was right. Anton didn’t do serious, but… "I already have him wrapped around my finger, you know. It’s probably why he hasn’t turned you in, in the first place." It was also technically why Cullen hadn’t turned in Bethany at that first party. "Do what you think you have to do, but… I think I can talk him around."
"Understand why I’m not telling you where I’m going. Shit, don’t even tell Artie I’m gone. I won’t be gone long enough for it to matter, I hope. I’m going to try to get Anders to come with me. Send a letter, by way of Varric, if I’m not back before you know what’s going on. I should only be gone a week." Cormac smiled just as brightly as always. "You’ll get us out of this. You always do. And if you don’t, you little shit, the house is yours. It’s yours, anyway. You’re the party magnet. I’m just taking a little holiday with my favourite Warden, and I’ll be right back. Trust me. Tell Varric everything. We’ll get through this."