[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 112
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Isabela ♀, Merrill ♀, Aveline ♀, Bethany Hawke ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: A great lot of stabbing malevolent Qunari and other villainous parties
Notes: The relic has been found. Anton was really hoping things wouldn’t go that way, but he’s not surprised.
"Hold!" a Qunari called out, as they rounded the last corner. "You will surrender the relic!"
"If I had your stupid relic, would I have come here looking for it?" Isabela scoffed, rolling her eyes.
"It’s a Qunari relic?" Anton looked horrified. "Of course it’s a Qunari relic. That’s why they were chasing you."
"I really thought you might have figured that out by now, Anton." Isabela shrugged, before addressing the Qunari again. "We still don’t have it. But, we can get it, if you let us past you. There’s an entirely unscrupulous man in that building, about to sell your relic to Tevinter mages. I don’t know what you think about mages, but I think none of us are great fans of Tevinter."
"Don’t you need it to—" Anton began.
"Shut up, Anton. Our Qunari friends are right here. You’re on good terms with the Arishok, aren’t you?" Isabela grinned, wrapping an arm around Anton’s shoulders.
That did not seem to impress the Qunari. Then again, with their stony faces, nothing really seemed to impress the Qunari, but that might have just been Kirkwall’s influence. "You will surrender the relic," repeated the leader, the only Qunari blessed with metal armour on his torso. "And you will surrender it now."
"Shit," Isabela said through still-smiling teeth. Her hand inched towards a dagger.
"She doesn’t have it!" Anton said, following suit. "I mean, look at her. Where on her person could she possibly be stashing a book?"
"You’d be surprised," Izzy said out of the corner of her mouth, earning an impressed once-over from Anton before the Qunari unsheathed their swords.
"The bas has no honour," roared the Qunari leader. "Kill it!" Before he could charge, he found his feet tangled in vines, vegetation rising up from cracks in the pavement to wrap around his ankles. "Saarebas!" There was as much fear as rage in that one word.
"Yes," Fenris agreed, lyrium lighting as he leapt forward, landing a strike before his feet touched the ground. "Very dangerous."
Anton and Isabela vanished, as soon as all the attention had turned toward Merrill, leaving Fenris the only one guarding her, as she wreaked havoc on the Qunari. Blood seemed to eat its way out through their skin, as she leaned heavily on her staff, her own blood running down her arm. Of course, with the number of blades involved, no one could be quite sure as to the source of any particular blood, but Fenris knew enough Qunlat to hear them complain of the burning and boiling in their veins. This was why he could never approve of blood magic, even as other magic became easier to accept. Boiling a man’s blood inside his body… that was just a bit too far, even for him, he thought, plunging his sword into one Qunari warrior and plunging his other hand into the chest of another.
It was over swiftly. The Arishok had not known they were coming, and had sent out a team prepared to deal only with a single smuggler and a small team of thugs. He hadn’t planned for this eventuality. On the other hand, that meant he also hadn’t planned for the mages inside, given how surprised and terrified this group had been by Merrill. Anton shook his head and sheathed his daggers. "That could have gone better. I hate having to do that, but we’d have had to go talk to the Arishok, to prevent it, and I really wasn’t expecting to run into any Qunari."
"It may be a Qunari artefact," Isabela said, "but I had no reason to imagine they’d found it, so quickly. Most people aren’t in the habit of dealing information to the Qunari, and most Qunari aren’t in the habit of leaving the compound."
Anton sighed and rubbed at his forehead. A Qunari relic. While his brother and sister were potentially confronting the Arishok at that very moment. This had ‘disaster’ written all over it. "Right. Well, if the Arishok finds out about us killing his men, we’ll say it was an accident. Or a misunderstanding. ‘Your warriors? Oh yes, they tripped and fell onto our daggers. All of them. Clumsy fellows’."
"Isabela," Fenris said, fingers twisting about his sword’s leather hilt. "I think it’s about time you tell us what this ‘relic’ actually is."
"A book, yes. I am familiar with the concept. But I suspect you know more about it than you’re letting on. Than you’ve been letting on."
Anton eyed the two of them, the way Fenris was still in battle mode, the way Isabela looked about her for an escape route.
"It will be easier for us to help you, if we know," Merrill said, soft voice cutting the tension.
Isabela couldn’t quite make eye-contact with any of them when she answered, "The relic… It’s a Qunari text handwritten by that philosopher of theirs — Keslan, Cousland… whatever his name is."
"Koslun?" Fenris looked a little less than entirely amused with this revelation. "The founder of their religion? The most revered being in their history? The text would be sacred beyond measure."
"Oh, no." Merrill looked terribly disappointed in Isabela.
"What, yes, I stole it from them, and they followed me here to reclaim it, and it’s why they’re still in Kirkwall." Isabela spread her hands dismissively. "Unfortunately, I can’t make them go away, because I don’t have it. Also because Castillon is going to kill me if I don’t give him the book."
"How… did you manage to steal from the Qunari?" Anton’s head tipped to the side in confusion. Fenris thought he looked like a confused mabari.
"The Arishok never had it; the Orlesians did, and they had plans to return it to the Qunari. In theory, anyway, you know the Orlesians." Isabela smiled, reflectively. "All I had to do was waylay the Orlesian caravan, before they could meet with the Arishok. Getting the book was easy. Getting away from the Qunari was the hard part."
"Maybe if we actually give them the book, it’ll solve Aveline’s problem. And everyone else’s. They get the book, they go home." Anton shrugged.
"Except mine!" Isabela reminded him. "If I don’t give the book to Castillon, he’ll kill me!"
"Or we could kill him," Fenris pointed out. "He doesn’t sound like someone whose continued existence much benefits the world."
"But why would anyone besides the Qunari want this relic?" Merrill asked, brow furrowing.
Isabela darted a look at Fenris. "Tevinter would," he said. "The Imperium has been as war with the Qunari for centuries. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? To steal the book from Tevinter mages?"
Isabela nodded. "If the Tevinters get the relic, it will strike a blow to Qunari morale. That’s probably what the mages want."
"To think, all this for a bit of light reading," Anton said. "You should have slipped the Arishok a copy of your friend-fiction, Izzy. He might even have come to my corset party."
"So all this time," Fenris said, rubbing his forehead with the heel of one hand, "you could have done something about the Qunari, but you didn’t."
"Done what?" Isabela asked defensively. "The blighted thing didn’t show up for three years!" The grim set of Fenris’s face said he wasn’t impressed with this answer. "Look, the book’s right in this building, and I’m not letting it slip away again." She gestured at one of the foundries. Anton was relieved it wasn’t… that foundry.
"Let’s go get the book," Anton said, clapping Isabela on the shoulder. "We’ll get the book, we’ll deal with Castillon, and then we’ll do something about the Qunari. With any luck, we can solve all these problems. You’re not going to mind if we stab Castillon and heave him into the bay, are you?"
"Why would I mind? I’m just not sure it would be that easy." Isabela paused at the door.
"My brothers and I killed a dragon. You were there when we — tell me that actually happened, and it wasn’t just some horrible nightmare, Fenris?" Anton glanced over at the elf.
"If you mean that nightmarish deathtrap full of darkspawn, topped with an ancient Tevinter magister? Yes, that happened. I’m less than entirely convinced of his vintage, though. Nothing survives that long. Not even magisters." Fenris shook his head and shrugged.
"We still killed the thing." Anton grinned. "Castillon’s just a man. We can take him."
Isabela smiled uncertainly and opened the door. Hearing voices within, she slipped inside, unnoticed, and hid among the shadows, motioning for the others to do the same. Even if the elves weren’t as stealthy as Isabela and Anton, bare feet kept their entrance quiet.
"Where is the relic?" That was a woman’s voice, and it echoed around the cavernous room.
Fenris bit back a growl. Mages. Not magisters, but certainly Tevinter, their leader’s head tilted up in a haughty look that echoed of Hadriana.
"I… er… I have it," stammered a bearded man in dirty clothes, a man Anton recognised as Wall-Eyed Sam. Sweat beaded along Sam’s brow.
The mage’s eyes narrowed. She opened her mouth to speak when another voice cut over hers.
"The Tome of Koslun will not fall into Tevinter hands!" boomed a voice from the second level. The voice of a Qunari.
Isabela swore under her breath.
"‘Oh, yes, Arishok?'" Anton said, drawing out his daggers. "‘Those other Qunari? Yes, they tripped and fell on my daggers too. Such a shame.'"
The mages drew their staffs, and the air filled with lightning and the stink of blood. In the confusion, Sam darted for the door. Isabela bolted after him.
"I’ll get the book, you get the mages!" she called back.
"I have to say I approve of that plan," Fenris joked, drawing his sword. "Do you think we should let them soften each other up, first, and just clean up?"
"Why not?" Anton leaned against a wall and cleaned under his nails with a dagger. "Isabela’s got the book. Sam’s not the fighting type. He is the running type, though, so that might be a bit. Might as well let this go on. They’ll wear down at some point, and I’d rather not get my ass set on fire, today, if I can help it."
Time passed, and few were still standing, the Qunari moving more slowly and the mages running out of mana. Anton decided it was time for them to step in.
"Hey, Merrill? Can you do that thing with the vines again? I think Fenris and I can handle it from there." Anton winked at the mage, and she smiled as she cast.
Fenris looked less thrilled. "We could have handled it without that. They’re barely standing."
"I don’t like it when things try to sneak up on me," Anton said, slipping into the shadows.
It was over in less than a minute, and it looked like the two groups had done each other in.
"Maybe we don’t have to explain anything to the Arishok. We just … arrived a little late and tidied up the mages." Anton’s smile didn’t waver at all. "Let’s go find Izzy, shall we?"
Outside, instead of Izzy, they found Wall-Eyed Sam’s cooling corpse.
"Hm. Not much of a runner after all," Fenris rumbled.
Anton looked around, but the street was deserted. Izzy didn’t meet them or pop out of the shadows. Pursing his lips, Anton crouched by Sam’s body and found what he’d expected: no book. "Oh look, she left a note." Bloodstained, and pinned to Sam with a stiletto dagger. "‘Dear Anton, I have the relic, and I am gone. I’m sorry it has to be this way. You’ve been a loyal ally, but this is best for us both. I know you’ll fight Castillon for me, but I don’t want this. I’ve dragged you too far into this mess already. You don’t have to forgive me, but I hope you understand.'" Anton crumpled the note. "Signed, ‘Isabela’."
"Oh dear," Merrill said in a soft voice.
Anton barked a laugh. "‘Oh dear’," he agreed with an ugly smile. "And you know? I can’t even be mad because that… that is exactly the sort of thing I would have done." He pushed himself to his feet, swearing under his breath. "Dammit, Izzy."
They got back to the house, bloody and unsuccessful — though at least the blood was other people’s — only to find Aveline, Bethany, and Artemis waiting for them in the library.
"I don’t know what my brother was thinking, really…" Bethany trailed off as Anton walked past the door. "Anton! In here!"
Looking grimly amused, Anton slapped the doorframe as he came in, tossing himself onto the couch below the stairs. "Tell me your day was better than mine?"
Fenris lurked awkwardly beside the fire, and Merrill sat down next to Bethany.
"The Arishok refused to see us at all," Aveline declared. "We weren’t worthy of an audience."
"I really think you should go see him, Anton," Bethany added. "He likes you."
Anton considered where they were, where they had just been, and tried not to laugh at the irony. "Of course he likes me," he said, lying back and folding his hands behind his head. "I’m the charming one of the family!"
Artemis and Bethany exchanged sidelong glances. "At least he hasn’t peed on the Arishok," Artie said, shrugging.
"I don’t pee on people, Artie. We’ve been over this. Though one day I might pee on you if you’re not careful." Anton smirked at the horrified look that twisted his brother’s face.
"So where is that slattern, then?" Aveline asked. "What were you up to that was so much more important?"
Anton laughed, finally. "She, ah… she gave me something to think about. She’s off to save herself. Wouldn’t let me help her, which is a damn shame, because then we both could have helped you."
"What? What are you even—" Aveline sputtered.
"The Qunari. Her Castillon? He wants the Tome of Koslun, the single most sacred artefact the Qunari have. Apparently she stole it from the Orlesians, and that’s what these Qunari are doing in Kirkwall," Fenris explained, glaring at Anton.
"Hey, I just didn’t want her to do … exactly what she did. Grab the book and run." Anton shook his head. "Cormac’s going to kill me."
"I still believe the correct answer to this problem would have been to execute Castillon," Fenris put forth. "It may still be the correct solution, but that would require us to know where he is, which we don’t, and presumably she does."
"So we’d need to find her to find him, in order to get the book to give to the Qunari," Anton explained with another laugh. "Which is… is… just great, really. It was exactly the one thing this giant clusterfuck of a political situation needed." If he kept laughing, maybe he could convince himself this was funny, which it was, in a way.
Eyes closed, Aveline kept her breathing slow and steady. "So you’re saying," she said in a voice dangerous for its calm, "that this book, the one Isabela stole, is the entire reason the Qunari are here in the first place?"
"Well." Anton drew out the one syllable. "Maybe not the entire reason, but…" He trailed off with a sheepish smile, shrugging.
"But it was her fault?"
Fenris held up a hand towards Aveline before she could start breathing fire. "There is no doubt she is at fault," he said, "but deciding how much at fault doesn’t help us get that book back. And if the tensions in this city keep rising, we are going to need that book."
"I’m not doing another damn thing, today. It’s the middle of the night." Anton reached up and pulled a random book out of the shelf above the couch and opened it onto his face. "I’m just going to lie here and do impressions of Cormac, until I figure out what to do next."
"Go see the Arishok," Aveline insisted, turning around in her chair, to look at him.
"Not at this hour, no." Anton’s voice was muffled by the pages.
"I must agree," Fenris said. "The last thing we want to do is show up in the middle of the night, to ask a favour."
"If anyone protests the delay," Bethany suggested, "tell them there are ‘negotiations’ and ‘cultural differences’ must be accounted for, in this delicate situation with our Qunari neighbours, who in all their years here have had very little interaction with the laws of Kirkwall. Which, I suspect is what will actually happen, once we get someone inside, but we can start ahead! It calms people to hear that, rather than ‘the Arishok refuses to see us’."
Anton pointed at his sister. "And that is why I told you to take Bethany."