[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 114
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Merrill ♀, Bethany Hawke ♀, Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Bawdy ballads and elven… ‘culture’, a bit of smiting undead
Notes: Up the mountain to retrieve the arulin’holm. Fenris becomes a little less fond of other elves, with every passing moment.
They were halfway up the mountain, and the mages had started singing again. Fenris debated stepping off the next cliff they passed, but Artemis would be so disappointed in him. Instead, he found himself grateful for how very little Orlesian he understood, although a few of those phrases very definitely indicated this was some bawdy ballad or other. When they next paused for breath and to argue over the next song, he started behind them with the most utterly vile song he’d ever heard in a Tevinter brothel, hoping to horrify Anders into silence. Instead the bloody abomination joined in. Of course he’d know that song. It was hideously offensive. But, Fenris kept on, reaching for more and more verses, hoping to hit one Anders didn’t know.
"I wish I had any idea what they were singing, because that sounds filthy, and Fenris’s ears keep twitching," Cormac muttered to Merrill. "Don’t suppose you know?"
"Do you think it’s dirty? I thought it might just be that all Tevene sounds dirty to me," Merrill whispered. "Oh, now I’m curious."
Cormac reflected that in all the time they’d known the man, he’d never heard Fenris sing, which now that he was hearing that voice was something of a surprise. He didn’t speak Tevene, so the nuance was lost on him, but the crisp clarity of the words and the fluid handling of what was a fairly complex melody for what seemed to be a bawdy song was kind of astonishing, really. He’d never associated Fenris with any artistry outside his swordsmanship, but the root of that talent must have expressed elsewhere — like here.
"It’s definitely dirty," Cormac said, nodding. "Look at Anders. I know that look." He elbowed Artemis. "Hey, you know some dirty words in Tevene, right? What are they singing about?"
"I, um." Artemis stumbled over a rock as he stared at Fenris. His elf’s speaking voice was gorgeous enough. This was terribly unfair. "Some… some of those words are definitely familiar." Some of those words brought to mind a certain coat closet and a collar around his neck. Artie leaned in and whispered, "Maybe we can get them to act out the song later." He grinned, biting his lip. Then he thought better of it. "Well. Maybe we should have a translation first and then decide if it’s the sort of thing we’d want acted out." There were two kinds of dirty, after all: the ‘fun’ kind and the ‘ew’ kind.
Bethany didn’t know the words, but she’d picked up the tune and started humming along. Sebastian would not have approved of any of this.
Fenris and Anders kept on singing like it was a competition until Merrill tittered and waved to get their attention. "I’d love to hear the rest," she said, "but we’re close to the camp, and Marethari knows some Tevene. Hopefully not the dirty words, but. Well. Who knows what she’s been reading since I left?"
The singing and humming died down. "All right," said Anders, "we’ll wait to scandalise her until we have your… special elf-tool thing."
"Arulin’holm," Merrill said.
From ahead of them on the path there was a voice, after a few minutes, "Hey, it’s Assface and them! Looks like they brought back the First."
"Too weird, even for the shem," another voice laughed.
"Did I hear somebody say ‘Assface’?" a third voice asked, that one familiar.
"Yeah, yeah, your earthquake shem is with them, Mahariel. Don’t start drooling on things," the second voice replied, and then the group came into view, as they crested a ridge.
"We’ll tell the Keeper you’re here." The first voice belonged to a young hunter who dashed back across the camp.
"I’d say you should let Mahariel keep you company, until she’s free to speak, but we’d rather not have the aravels shaken to splinters." One of Ilen’s apprentices, this time.
"Hey, now, we didn’t break anything last time!" Cormac protested, shrugging as he traded lopsided grins with Mahariel. "Keep your dick out of my brother, would you please? I don’t really want to deal with the bloody mess."
"And now you sound like him, don’t want to deal with the mess," Mahariel teased.
"No, I mean … bloody. Have you met his fiancé? He’s getting married." Cormac cocked a thumb at Fenris.
"Fiancé?" Mahariel’s eyebrows shot up. Fenris waved, his smile decidedly unfriendly. Mahariel eyed his clawed gauntlets.
"Yes. Fiancé. The ‘earthquake’ mage is mine, and mine is the only elven dick that will be going anywhere near him."
Artemis swore and hid his face in his hands. "Maker. Can we stop discussing elven dicks and their proximity to my ass? Yes, hello again, Theron. This is Fenris. Fenris, meet Theron."
Mahariel looked Fenris up and down, making Fenris’s ear twitch in answer. Mahariel had barely turned to his wife before she was giving him a flat look and saying, "No."
"But they’re both pretty," he wheedled.
"Earthquakes," Tabris insisted.
Artemis wondered if this was how Anders felt right before bursting into flames. "No. No earthquakes. On a mountain."
Cormac lifted an eyebrow at Mahariel. "You know, Fenris has a lovely house in Hightown. As do I — well, I should say it’s my little brother’s house, but I live in it. Ours has the most interesting earthquake-proof garden of … excitements. No aravels to ruin, no children to frighten…"
Anders leaned his head on Cormac’s shoulder and laughed down his back. "Aren’t there enough dicks where Artie’s concerned?" he cackled.
"Yes, but you and I don’t count. We’re self-contained. We’re also assholes." Cormac laughed.
Merrill cleared her throat and pointed to where the runner was returning.
"Anyway, come see us, sometime. We’re pretty easy to find. Ask any messenger for ‘Lady Amell’s sons, with the parties’, and you’ll get to the right place." Cormac winked at the elven couple, one of whom seemed to be considering it, while the other looked on in exasperation.
"The Keeper will see you," the runner announced, gesturing for them to follow her.
Artemis opened his mouth to say something to Mahariel, but Fenris grabbed his hand and pulled him along. "No." He pointed a finger in Cormac’s face and repeated the sentiment, "No."
Anders still struggled against his laughter. "I take it Fenris isn’t as into elves are Artie is." He snickered. "Though really, it’s more the elves that are into Artie."
"I swear to the Maker," Artemis muttered, "I will collapse this mountain if you all don’t stop talking about this."
Merrill shook her head at the lot of them. "Keeper," she said as they approached Marethari, more a statement than a greeting. She barely looked at Marethari.
"You return to us, da’len," the keeper said, voice painfully hopeful. "Have you reconsidered this path at last?"
"I…" Merrill stammered and fidgeted, toes digging in the dirt. She looked helplessly at her companions.
Cormac opened his mouth, looking like he might address the keeper, but turned to Merrill, instead. If Merrill was to become Keeper one day, she had to do this, herself. "Go on, Merrill. We’re with you."
"Thank you, Cormac." Merrill smiled, uncertainly, and looked back at the keeper. "Keeper, I need the arulin’holm, the ancient carving blade that Master Ilen keeps."
"I see." Marethari’s eyebrows rose. "You wish to rebuild the eluvian."
Merrill cut her off. "You don’t have to approve of it. I’m invoking vir sulevanan. I’ll do whatever task you wish."
"Well, I’m glad to know I can still disapprove," Marethari snapped, crossing her arms. "It is your right. I will give you a service to perform, if you insist."
"You’re invoking the what?" Anders hissed.
"It’s a Dalish thing," Cormac said, quietly. "All the history of the elves belongs to all the elves. If she performs a service for the clan, it doesn’t matter if she’s even part of the clan, she can borrow the artefact."
"We appreciate your help," Bethany said, putting on her most charming smile. "This means a lot to Merrill."
Marethari gave her an appraising look, as though trying to decide if this human were as strange as her brothers. "I’m… glad that Merrill has found such friends. I hope you will look after her."
"I can take care of myself, Keeper," Merrill replied, holding her chin high.
"Yes, da’len," Marethari sighed. Her weary expression said they’d had this argument before. "I know." She was all business when she turned back to the Hawkes. "A varterral has taken the lives of three of our hunters. It lairs in a cavern in the mountainside. Seek it out. Slay it. No one else must fall to its anger." She folded her arms across her chest. "Do this for us, and I… will give you the arulin’holm."
"A var-what-al?" Artie asked Merrill in a loud whisper.
"Very angry giant spiders with hands," Cormac muttered. "Sacred to Dirthamen. Larger than an aravel. They’re sacred guards of the ancient places. Or… some of them, at least. I wonder what it’s doing here…"
"Let’s see if your god gives you any sway," Anders muttered. "And thank the Maker Nate’s not here for this. Spiders the size of an aravel? He’d piss himself."
"I still don’t know your Nate," Cormac reminded him, "although after all those stories Sigrun was telling, I might as well."
"So, we just have to kill the giant angry spider that is sacred to an elven god? That doesn’t sound like a terrible idea, at all," Fenris drawled, crossing his arms.
"They’re … not actually spiders. They’re constructs. And they only have five legs and, well, two arms. Did I mention they’re poisonous?" Cormac coughed and tugged at the ends of his hair, looking down the path.
"This just keeps getting better," Fenris grumbled.
"We’ll do it." Merrill said, nodding. "Thank you, Keeper."
"May the Dread Wolf never catch your scent," Marethari told them, smiling brittlely.
"Five legs and two arms," Artemis muttered to himself as Merrill led them up a familiar mountain path. "That is seven limbs. That is a terrible number. Cormac? Tell your god that is a terrible number."
"I’ll cut one off for you and make it six," Fenris promised. "Is that better?"
"Yes. If it’s a leg."
"Cut off giant angry spider leg. Yes, that seems doable." Then he frowned, brows scrunching together. "Hold on. I’m the only not-mage. We’re fighting a giant construct, and I’m the only not-mage. Venhedis."
"Sorry," Anders said with a shrug. "We didn’t know that was on the agenda. I’ll just keep flinging healing, don’t worry."
They were still within sight of the camp when Merrill gestured at the cave they were looking for.
"No wonder the Keeper was worried," said Bethany. "That is awfully close."
Merrill nodded. "I suspect she would have just warned the hunters away, otherwise."
"But, your clan has been here for how many years? How is there just now a problem with this varterral? Varterral are eternal, aren’t they? If it’s here, it’s been here since the days of Elvenhan." Cormac looked deeply confused by this, toying with his beard as he gazed into the mouth of the cave. "And if it’s here, that means it’s here for a reason, too. There was something here important enough to warrant its own varterral."
"I know you’re right," Merrill murmured, twisting her staff nervously in both hands. "But, whatever it is, it must be gone. There’s nothing much in this cave. It doesn’t lead anywhere. There’s just the occasional ancient coin or part of a sword."
A few more steps and the ground began to shake, twisting and rising in man-sized lumps.
"I didn’t think it was that exciting, Artie," Anders joked, and then the first skeletal hand breached the earth, clutching a shield with an ancient Tevinter emblem bossed on it.
"As if undead weren’t bad enough, we have Tevinter undead," Fenris grumbled. "Tell me the fortune of the Hawkes hasn’t brought us another ancient magister to go along with these soldiers…"
"No, just warriors, it looks like," Bethany sighed. "And some of them missing limbs, the poor dears."
Fenris took pity on one that tried to draw a bow with one arm. He lopped off its head with one clean swipe and then stood back to let the mages unleash chaos. The skeletons were charred and ground to dust in a matter of seconds.
"Okay," Artemis said, rubbing his forehead and lowering his staff, "we have an ancient spider-thing that guards ancient things, and now we also have long-dead Tevinter rising out of the ground? This is… not a combination I like."
"And don’t forget what we know is at the top of the mountain," Fenris added. "More undead, though of the elven kind. And who knows what else."
"So the general consensus is that this is a Bad Place," Anders said, looking around. "Why are the Dalish still camped here?"
"We have no halla. We can’t move on." Merrill shrugged. "The halla are not native to this place, and it would be a long journey to find more, and a difficult discussion to convince them to travel with a clan that has obviously failed its halla in the past."
"So, you’re basically trapped here," Cormac muttered, picking through what remains hadn’t burnt. "A battle happened here. We know that. The evidence is all around us, and the stories tell of it, from both sides. Even after all that time, the demons raised to bring forth the horrors are still able to raise those corpses, if they’re disturbed, but they’re barely here. They’re less than shades." A few deep breaths as Cormac tapped at the air in front of him, as if rearranging things.
"But, the other demon is still at the top of the mountain," Merrill reminded him. "That may be what’s keeping them here. Still, they’ve been here longer than we have. Why is this a problem now?"
"One of the hunters found something," Fenris suggested. "Found something and woke the things guarding it. If a varterral is a guard, and we don’t know why it’s here, then there’s something here we don’t know about. If it hasn’t been active, then it’s likely no one has gotten close enough to set it off. And waking up the varterral meant there was something for these soldiers to fight — something they already recognised as an enemy."
"That’s … pretty likely." Cormac nodded, looking impressed. "I’m not going to say you’re right, but that’s more likely than anything I’ve come up with." And safer than anything he’d come up with, since the other answer meant the demon at the top of the mountain was working itself free…
"Makes you wonder what it is they found," Bethany said. "Then again, we could always ask the varterral."
"I’m not sure it’s going to be in the mood for answering questions," Anders said. "Maybe we should have brought tea. Or pastries."
Fenris was reminded of all the time Anton had bribed him with apple tarts, pre-empting his temper. He huffed.