[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 118
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Aveline ♀, Varric ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Spiders are gross, exploded spiders are grosser, burning the bones of our enemies
Notes: Trouble in the mines. Nothing serious, just a few spiders! Maybe some undead…
Anton grabbed a glass of wine and a sandwich and sat in the library. A high-backed chair, a roaring fire, and some trashy reading were how he planned to de-stress from all that Coterie nonsense. He kicked off his shoes and took a bite of ham sandwich, and—
"Maker’s sake, Anton, at least use a plate. You’re getting crumbs everywhere!"
"Mmf?" The sandwich still in his mouth, Anton peeked around the high-backed chair to see Artemis in the back corner, dusting shelves and reorganising books. It was a familiar sight, but one he hadn’t seen in a while. Anton chewed the bit of sandwich in his mouth and swallowed. "Artie? What in Maker’s name are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" Artemis answered, barely sparing him a glance. He frowned as he turned over a pair of books, examining their spines. "Though I can never decide if I want to organise them by author or by category. Both? By author within each category? But not all of these have an author — well, obviously they did, but not labelled — and then how do I categorise? For example, should this treatise on the necropolis outside Nevarra City go with other books on art and architecture across Thedas or with the other books on Nevarra’s history? Decisions, decisions…"
Anton closed his eyes, took a deep breath. "Artie. Don’t you have your own library to fuss over?"
"I… well, yes. But I already reorganised that. Fenris said I was getting twitchy and suggested I get some air and leave the cleaning to Orana." His fingers tapped against the books in his hands.
"So you… came here to clean our house instead?"
"I… got some air in between. On the way over."
"So, I found out we’re not the only ones who got out of Lothering. There’s this guy from the mine, Sabin, who says he’s from there, and given what he knows about Cormac, I stopped doubting him in a hurry." Anton shrugged and took another bite of the sandwich, trying to look casual, as he remembered that part of the conversation. "And Cormac admits to it, too, in that not actually explaining anything sort of way that Cormac has. Something about Gantry Turpin and being the ‘crazy Rivaini with the knife’? Do you know anything about that? All he’d tell me is it wasn’t my knife." Anton’s fingers left dents in the bread, as he tried not to squeeze the sandwich until it crumbled.
Artemis fumbled the book he was putting away. "Gan… Gantry?" Oh Maker. That was his name. Maker knew how Artie had forgotten it with the way Cormac had been shouting it. "The farmer boy?" He coughed, bent to pick up the book he’d dropped. "I mean, uh. No. No idea. Knife? What knife? That is something I totally knew nothing about. Until just now."
"Andraste’s blooming asscakes!" Anton dropped the sandwich onto the plate in his lap and shoved the plate onto the table. "It is something sexual, isn’t it? And you know all about it, don’t you, you poor git. That’s… with a knife? How—? Why—? What is wrong with our brother!? How many years, now, after the town was razed to the ground, and this is what people remember our family for?" The wine went into his mouth. All of it. Very quickly. "I am not drunk enough for this. I am not drunk enough to be related to either of you."
"I don’t think anyone is ever drunk enough to be related to us," Artie muttered. "Maker knows I’m not drunk enough to be one of us." But in a way, he found Anton’s shock reassuring. If the thing with the knife was the worst thing he thought Cormac had done, then they were all better for it. Oh, sweet Andraste, if Anton ever found out about — no. He was not going there.
"Hey Anton!" Cormac thumped his brother’s door. "Get your knob out of the templar, and let’s go. You said you’d come check the mines with me, today!"
Cormac doubted there would be dragons again, so soon, with the mine being in use, like it was. The old infestation must have settled in between the Tevinter occupation and Hubert’s decision to re-open the mine. Still, it was worth going up and making sure nothing untoward was going on — possessed artefacts, angry demons, five-legged spider constructs the size of an aravel. With the way Hubert had been talking, it sounded like something was wrong, and he wasn’t going to admit it. Fucking Orlesians. Everything had to be complicated.
Anton whipped the door open, fully dressed and ready to go, one hand counting his knives. "The templar is not here, and my knob is rather sorry about that." He shouldered past Cormac and headed for the stairs. "Some meeting or something, at sunrise. It was still dark when he got up. Who does that?" Anton sounded profoundly irritated at the idea of making someone get up at that hour — an hour he generally considered appropriate for getting home and considering sleep.
"Templars. Templars do that. Just another reason to tear down the system." Cormac grinned and picked up his staff, from where he’d left it in the hall. All the miners knew he was a mage, but he was their mage — the heroic magical solution to their problems. "Speaking of the system, Aveline coming along?"
"Yeah, she wouldn’t miss it for the world. Still looking for something to take Hubert down." Anton laughed and checked his face in the mirror, before opening the front door. "It’s kind of fun, being on the right side of a guard captain."
"Only you, Anton. And if she takes Hubert down, I will go to the Viscount to get the rest of that mine. It’s all Fereldan workers, and it’s in the Marches. There’s no reason for some prancy Orlesian who can barely put his shoes on to be skimming the better part of the take. I am extremely aware he’s been cheating me, for years, but I make enough that I’m not complaining." Cormac pulled the door shut behind him.
They arrived at the Bone Pit to find the miners milling about, some looking battered and all looking harried. Anton recognised Jansen, one of the original miners from that first incident, the one with the dragon he hadn’t been allowed to take home. Jansen jumped to his feet when he saw them and ran to meet them.
"Thank the Maker you’re here!" he said. "We’ve had to lock down the mines."
"Not more dragons, I hope," Anton said. "Are there dragons?" Aveline gave him a look, and he realised he might have sounded more excited than was appropriate.
"Andraste’s tits, no," Jansen said, eyes widened. "And thank the Maker for that. No, Crankovich was clearing out a collapsed section when giant spiders poured out the new opening. They got Crankovich, poor sod. Rest of us made it out, but now we’re sitting here with our thumbs up our asses."
"Spiders. Why is it always spiders?" Cormac shook his head. "Well, at least they’re not five-legged, holy, mechanical spiders, this time." He paused and shot a look at Jansen. "They’re not, are they?"
"No, boss, just the regular giant kind. Unholy in every way."
"Right. We’ll see what we can do." Cormac nodded and pointed firmly toward the tunnel entrance. "Tally-ho!"
"One!" Varric called out, pointing at Cormac’s back.
Aveline stared at him, confused.
"What? Isabela’s not here, so there’s one." Varric laughed and followed the Hawkes into the mine.
"I’m not a ho, Varric. That implies I have a price. I’m much too cheap for that," Cormac assured him, not turning around.
"Try not to get killed!" Jansen called after them.
"‘Try’ is all I can ever do with these idiots," Aveline sighed.
Inside, the mines looked deserted, still. Anton brushed a spider web away from his face, pausing to shake it off his hand. "Love what you’ve done with the place, Cormac," he said. "Now, if you had let me keep the dragon, it would have eaten those spiders and saved us the trouble."
"Probably would have eaten the miners too," Varric said, "but hey! No spiders." He pointed Bianca at the ceiling, squinting up at the mess of webbing above, the the torch and lantern light didn’t reach.
Anton looked up as well, watching shadows scurry past. He plucked more webbing out of his hair and hummed.
"Well, we’re not going to have spiders for long, if I have any say in it." Cormac looked up and considered the webbing. "You guys think you can handle whatever makes a break for this tunnel?" he asked, cracking his knuckles.
"I haven’t even heard this idea and I already don’t like it," Aveline grumbled, unsheathing her sword.
"Visibility’s kind of shit with all the webbing, but I don’t think there’s much getting past us. What’re you thinking, Shouty?" Varric squinted into the gloom, checking the angles. He’d been in here, before, but he didn’t know it well enough to go at it blind.
"You take out the dragons, you take out the spiders, what’s going to come up here, next, dwarven revenants?" Anton sighed dramatically. "One of these days, you’re going to dig up something really nasty."
"Like what, an ancient dwarven thaig full of demonic rocks? Oh, wait, we already did that." Cormac lightly shoved Anton. "I’m thinking I should light it on fire. Webbing burns well, and it burns fast. I can blow out the whole room in a couple of minutes, and then it’s just us and whatever survives. If I throw a shield on the far door, everything runs toward us."
"That’s the sound of a man thinking ahead!" Varric declared.
"A stampede of spiders, headed right for us? Oh, yes, that’s the best idea I’ve heard all day," Aveline scoffed, but it was too late.
The room ahead of them went up in flames, fire racing along the walls and ceiling, spiders dropping in its wake. A few loud pops from spiders bursting in the heat told Cormac he’d made a good decision, and Varric picked off most of the rest, before they even got close.
"It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. But, spiders. And an inferno. It’s like shooting spiders in an inferno!" he laughed, taking another shot.
Anton rather liked this method killing spiders. Much more efficient than getting spider guts on the soles of his shoes, though dodging shrivelled spider bodies as they fell was perhaps less fun. And when he and Aveline hacked at the few that made it past the fire and Bianca’s bolts, they ended up covered in spider guts anyway.
But then they came face to face — or face to leg — with the mother of all spiders, or at least what Anton assumed was the mother of these spiders. Not quite the size of a varterral, assuming Cormac hadn’t been exaggerating, but still pretty fucking huge.
Anton scuttled back and away from those wicked pincers while Varric stuffed the giant spider full of bolts. Eight legs flailed and spasmed when a bolt hit the thing in the eye, and Aveline pressed her advantage, hacking at its softer bits.
There was quite a bit of sweating and swearing involved, but eventually the spider slumped to the ground.
"Well, if I’d known it would be this clean, I’d have brought Artie along," Cormac joked, looking around at the distinct lack of spider guts on everything.
"I think he’s over at Merrill’s again," Anton said, wiping off his daggers. "I heard him talking to Bethany, in the library, the other night. What are you guys doing, anyway? Something about elves and a mirror that isn’t a mirror?"
"Pretty much that, yeah." Cormac nodded. "Merrill found a thing, but it doesn’t work. If it did work, it would let us talk to other people who also have a thing like it. So, we’re trying to make it work."
"You could’ve just said ‘weird elfy magic shit’, and we’d all have gotten the point, Shouty." Varric patted Cormac on the elbow as he took another quick circuit around the queen.
"You know me. Why say one word, when I can say ten?" Cormac shrugged and dropped the shield on the next door. "I just want to make sure we’ve gotten rid of this infestation, before we head back out. You’re welcome to check for dragons, Anton."
Anton chuffed as he walked around, toeing aside burnt spider husks and making sure the things were dead. "No, no dragons caught in the webbing." He sighed dramatically. "I told you you should have let me keep that last one!"
"Congratulations," Varric said to Cormac as he finished his circuit. "The only living spiders I see are the usual, normal-sized ones. If your miners need you to kill those too, I’d leave it to the Orlesian."
"Now that I would like to see," Anton said, picturing Hubert in his fine clothes, stomping baby spiders.
Aveline shook her head, wiping spider gunk off her sword.
"Shall we?" Varric nodded back towards the entrance, Bianca slung over his shoulder.
"Sure. Let’s. You guys mind hanging around for a day?" Cormac asked, following Varric toward the exit from the caverns. "I just want to make sure I don’t have to come back out here, tomorrow, because we missed something."
"You want us to camp. In a spider-infested mine?" Aveline looked at Cormac like he was beyond stupid.
"Well, it’s not spider-infested any more!" Anton said, cheerily, clapping Aveline on the shoulder, hand clanking against the plate.
"You know I have a husband I could be getting back to? A warm bed? A hot supper?" Aveline went on.
"And I could be going home to a warm bed and a hot cock, but here I am," Cormac drawled. "Come on, it’s just one night. You’ll be back by the afternoon."
Aveline grumbled, as Cormac went to talk to Jansen again.
"All clear," Cormac said, holding up one thumb.
"Thank the Maker! And thank you!" Jansen’s enthusiasm bubbled over, all smiles and broad gestures. After a moment, his face twisted grimly. "Wow… is that what the inside of a spider smells like?"
"Roasted." Cormac nodded.
"Let’s get back to work, boys!" Jansen called to the miners. "Roasted spider’s not going to clear itself!"
"Well," Cormac remarked, "with that, we might not even be here all night."
The mines still reeked of burnt spiders when Jansen approached them again, his face ashen. He stood in front of the group and waited until he had their attention. "So, funny story," he said, punctuated by a nervous laugh. "My friend Earl and I were just checking the side passages for spiders. I asked him what more the mines could throw at us: dragons, spiders, Hubert… And here comes Crankovich, limping towards us and moaning."
"Crankovich?" Anton asked. "Wasn’t he spider food?"
Jansen nodded enthusiastically. "That’s what I thought! I even said so. I said, ‘Oy, Crankovich! Thought them spiders got you.'"
Varric snorted. "And what did Crankovich say?"
"One word: ‘urgh’."
"Yeah, ‘urgh’. And then he tried to eat Earl! That’s when we figured out something was wrong." Another nervous laugh. "Good thing you guys decided to stick around. Looks like we let in a horde of undead. Makes me wish I’d taken up farming."
Anton glanced at his brother. "Okay, seriously? Is there some ancient Tevinter curse on this mine or something?"
"Maybe I should drag Anders and Fenris up here to take a look around. There’s enough Tevinter history between the two of them. I’m sure there were some nasty enchantments up here, at one point, given the evidence. Dragons, slaves, actual pit full of bones. There has to be something else up here." Cormac shook his head and looked back at Jansen. "You didn’t burn the body?"
"Well, it’s early, yet. You know, thought we could just bring him down when the cart came up in the morning with the next shift!" Jansen looked offended. "It’s on his wife to burn him, isn’t it? I couldn’t bring the poor lady a bucket of ashes!"
"Unfortunately, you’re going to have to bring the poor lady a bucket of ashes," Varric said fishing out a tiny tool and tightening one of Bianca’s bolts. He checked the tautness on the string again and nodded to himself.
"Possessed dead. I should have brought Bethy," Cormac sighed, heading back toward the mine entrance.
Aveline brought up the rear, distinctly unamused. "I am a captain of the guard, not a mercenary. How do I keep ending up in the middle of nowhere, fighting spiders and the undead, when I could be taking down smugglers?"
"Hubert," Anton reminded her. "Aren’t you after Hubert for something?"
"As soon as I find something I don’t have to smack Cormac for, as well…" Aveline muttered.
"I’m telling you, the books are bad, and he’s ripping me off," Cormac insisted, setting fire to anything that fluttered suspiciously, as they passed. There would be far fewer spiderwebs, if nothing else.
"Except he’s an Orlesian noble, and something stupid about the tax code makes that not actually illegal. It’s a loophole." Aveline drew her sword at the sight of the very different lighting coming through from one of the tunnels, ahead. "Is that…"
Cormac groaned. "An ancient part of the Deep Roads, with demon-possessed corpses in it? Why yes. Yes, it is."
"You!" Anton seethed. "You brought this on us! You had to say the thing about the dwarves and the demons, and here we are, again, with the dwarves and the demons! What is it with Kirkwall!?"
"Behind you," Cormac sighed, slapping a wall of ice across several skeletons. "You mind pummelling things, Aveline?"
"Mind?" Aveline scoffed, adjusting her grip on her shield. "I think I’m rather in a pummelling sort of mood today." She punctuated each word with a smack of her shield, and the clang of bone on metal rang through the mines. Skeletons. If she’d known there’d be skeletons, she’d have brought a mace or a cudgel. Swords were less helpful when there was no flesh to be stabbed. Then again, if she’d known there’d be skeletons, she likely would have stayed in Kirkwall.
Anton was having similar issues, opting to punch the skeletons with the haft and hilt of his daggers. The skeletons were old enough that their skulls caved in easily. Varric finished off the rest with a few bolts between eye sockets.
"Honestly," Varric sighed, checking to see if any of his fired bolts were salvageable, "I don’t know if it’s me who’s cursed or if it’s you Hawkes. But either way, we should probably stop investing in ventures that involve going underground.
"That’s the most sense I’ve ever heard Varric speak," Aveline muttered as she took point, walking shield-first into the next string of rooms.
Cormac just kept laying down ice. If he could keep the skeletons brittle, they’d be easier to break into bits. Freeze, smash, freeze, smash. Things were going well, but he still had no idea what the problem actually was. Why were there suddenly undead rising here? It wasn’t like they just staggered to their feet of their own accord and started pounding on people. Of course, they’d punched through into the Deep Roads, and Andraste only knew what had been down here. Probably worth sealing up that passage, and marking it, just to keep the darkspawn from burbling up into his mine. On the other hand, if there were dwarven mines, down here, there was a chance they’d be profoundly more profitable than the Tevinter mines above. Still, darkspawn. It was a terrible idea, at least until he’d found some dwarves to come with him and map it out — figure out what they’d stumbled into.
More ice, more smashing.
And then something lifted off the ground, behind the giant brazier in the centre of the room they were in.
"Mage!" Cormac yelled a warning, pointing and then clenching his fist. "I got this. Keep hitting things."
It wasn’t really a mage — not like the word was usually meant — but it had been, once. Tevinter, from the look of what was left of its robes. The arcane horror was probably the source of the rest of the undead. All it took was one demon powerful enough to reach through on its own, and the others would follow as it raised corpses with them. If he took it down, they’d stop coming. He hoped.
"Good thing Broody isn’t here," Varric said, backing up to put Aveline between him and the arcane horror. "A dead Tevinter mage? He’d be hissing and spitting." He picked off the other skeletons, shooting through skulls before they could shamble too close. It was a bit more tedious than the spiders, but he supposed bone was less flammable.
Varric was in the middle of nocking his next bolt when the room shifted, floor whirling by until he smacked into an armoured skeleton face-first. Nose-first, specifically. He was still swearing and seeing stars when Aveline grabbed him by the back of the collar and hauled him back. She avenged his nose by shield-slamming the revenant in the face where its nose would have been.
"You’re a true friend," Varric said, pinching his bleeding nose.
"I try," Aveline replied distractedly, fending the monster back. "Cormac! Can you throw some ice over here?" Sword slammed into shield, again and again, Aveline’s arm going numb.
Cormac whipped a hand in that direction and was sadly disappointed. A light sprinkle of snow fluttered over Aveline and the revenant, and Cormac staggered as the arcane horror finally landed a shot. "Anders!" he shouted, before realising Anders wasn’t there. "Well, shit."
"I knew this was going to happen," Anton sighed, pressing a bottle into Cormac’s hand as he darted by, in pursuit of something that looked like it might get back up.
Fending off the arcane horror with his staff, Cormac knocked back the potion and winged the bottle and a bolt of frost at the revenant, before turning the ice on the arcane horror, as well. The arcane horror crumpled, finally, and Anton leapt in from wherever he’d been lurking to jump up and down on the bones.
"It’s not getting back up, if there aren’t enough parts that go together!" Anton said, cheerily, grinding a piece of skull under his heel.
"Two Hawkes," Cormac said, turning back to the revenant. "One of us had to be thinking."
Ice caught in the revenant’s joints, slowing it just enough for Aveline to muscle past its defences, and she brought her shield down hard against its collarbone, striking between plates of armour. Brittle bone crunched and crumbled, and Aveline kept whacking away until she’d separated first one arm, then its head from its body. It crumpled as well in a heap of bones and rusted armour, but Aveline put a boot through its skull just in case.
Catching her breath, Aveline looked around to see the battle was over. "Was that all of them?" she asked, wiping the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. "They’re not going to get back up, are they?"
"And this is why we’re torching Crankovich," Varric said, shouldering Bianca.
After they’d dragged everything dead into one room, Cormac lit the pile on fire. It might be fairer to say he lit the room on fire, and after a bit of shoving and bending things, they managed to seal it off.
"Let’s not do that again," Anton said, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, as he took in the magically-fused pile of busted dwarfy stuff that was heaped in front of the door.
"All in favour, say aye," Cormac droned, raising his hand. "Aye."