[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 121
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Aveline ♀, Varric ♂, Merrill ♀, Anders ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Fenris ♂, Sebastian ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: It’s a war, stabbing, angry magic, Cormac if you keep that up you’re going to turn into a sylvan
Notes: The Hawkes find each other and go forth to take the keep.
"My house," Anton seethed, turning a throwing knife over in his hand. "Our mum’s house. They better not have touched anything in there. Or trampled my gardens." He marched up the steps and pulled on the door to find it locked, nodding approvingly. "Bodhan!" he shouted. "It’s Anton! Are you in there? Bodhan!" He could always pick the lock, but it was best to give anyone inside some warning. The last time he’d let himself in after accidentally locking himself out, Anton had taken a frying pan to the head. Bodhan hadn’t stopped apologising for a week, but the dog had been in hysterics.
The door clicked open just wide enough to reveal a frightened pair of eyes. "Messere Anton?" came Bodhan’s voice. "Oh, Ancestors be praised!" The door opened fully and revealed the rest of Bodhan in all his frying-pan-wielding glory. "My boy and I were worried about you and yours. Weren’t we, Sandal?"
"Enchantment," Sandal agreed, holding a spatula in front of him like a sword.
Mintaka woofed and all but ran into Anton’s arms.
"I’m glad you two are safe," Anton said, kneeling to pet his dog. "Is Bethy here?"
Bodhan’s face fell. "Ah, no, messere. I was rather hoping she was with you. Maybe she’s with Messere Artemis or Prince Vael?"
Anton exchanged a look with Cormac, as he stood.
"Chantry," Cormac said. "I can hope they’ve locked themselves inside in exactly the way it seems the Viscount’s men didn’t. If I’m wrong, we’ll see if she’s with Artie. I don’t want him out in this. I don’t want to give him an idea this is happening, if he’s still in bed. If he knows it’s happening, maybe Fenris and Orana can keep him from rushing out to do something about it, but if we show up at the door looking for Bethy, he’s going to come out."
"You’ll drag our sister into this, but not Artie?" Carver snapped, shoving Cormac. "You really are, aren’t you — the two of you—"
Anton grabbed Carver’s shoulders and shook him. "Think very hard about the next words that are about to come out of your mouth."
"One, I need someone who’s not going to miss and hit the Viscount. Two, look at the streets out there. How long do you think he’s going to keep his shit together in that? Not just because it’s a disaster, but because it’s a disaster that doesn’t belong there. Deep Roads are the Deep Roads, ancient crap-filled caves are crap-filled. But, this is Hightown. There’s an order to this place, and now it’s trashed and burning. Three, Knight-Commander Meredith. I’m not putting him in the way of the templars, if I can help it. Bethany has enough —" Cormac cleared his throat. "—leverage to protect herself, I expect. If not, I’m sorry, Anton, but I’m going to kill your boyfriend’s boss and blame the Qunari. Something else Artemis would not be quite as well-disposed toward."
"Cullen’s going to know she went after the Qunari. As long as you don’t crush her into a muffin, the situation should be recoverable." Anton shrugged. Meredith was an unpleasant individual, and he didn’t much like the way she treated Cullen’s — and by extension, his own — concerns about the order. A little too much ‘how dare you say such things’ and not enough ‘how dare someone do those things’.
"Hello, guard captain?" Aveline raised her hand, looking entirely exasperated. "Can you not plot murders in front of the guard captain?"
"Murder? What murder?" Anton asked, eyes round and innocent. "There’s so murder plotting here!" As Aveline rolled her eyes, Anton turned back to Bodhan. "All right, Bodhan. Lock the door after us. The cellar leads into Darktown if you and Sandal need to escape. Don’t worry about the house. Just focus on keeping yourself safe."
Bodhan nodded. "Right. Of course, messere. You be safe as well."
They ventured across the courtyard, past the steps that led up to the keep’s gate. Down the familiar road that branched left towards Artie’s and led straight towards the Chantry. They heard the screams first, the blood-curdling, dying-in-agony kind of screams, and Carver and Aveline slowed to a stop at the Chantry steps, the others following suit.
There were Qunari on those steps, writhing and shrieking, clawed hands clutching their heads.
Merrill looked askance at Anders. "I think we found Bethany," she said in a stage whisper.
"I think so too."
And there she was, at the doors of the Chantry, the eye of the storm. The fingers of one hand were the only thing that moved, her face a mask of calm. Next to her, Sebastian was a flurry of motion, nocking and shooting arrows at a mad pace, cheeks red with exertion and hair flopping about his face. He paused halfway through aiming his next arrow, spotting the Hawkes and their companions up ahead. He smiled with relief and picked off another Qunari.
"Looks like your family’s here," Sebastian told Bethany, who smiled and waved.
Merrill waved back and unleashed chain lightning with the same hand, which crackled through the remaining few Qunari. "You looked like you wanted a little help!" she called to Sebastian.
"More mages?" Sebastian sighed, quietly, before he shouldered his bow and waved to Merrill. "Thank you! Maker’s blessings on you!"
Merrill opened her mouth to protest that she wasn’t Andrastian, but Varric laid a hand on her arm. "One thing at a time, Daisy. Don’t upset the Chantry boy, over there."
Cormac stepped forward, into the bloody mess. "I came looking for you, Bethy. We need you at the Keep. It’s fallen."
"Merciful Andraste, it’s a keep! How could it have fallen so quickly?" Bethany scoffed, hiking up her skirts in one hand and picking her way down the stairs, spear in her other hand.
"I’m assuming someone forgot to lock the door," Anton deadpanned. "The Viscount’s guards never struck me as the brightest."
"Well," Bethany huffed, reaching out and taking Carver’s hand before she stepped over the body of one of the fallen Qunari, "I suppose we’ll just have to clean that up, won’t we? Does the Viscount still live?"
"We don’t know, yet," Aveline said, taking in the damage done as compared to Bethany’s spotless gown.
Sebastian almost forgot to come down the stairs, just watching Bethany precede him. She was different. She was like no one he’d ever met, he thought. When Elthina had called for the Chantry to be sealed against the invaders, Bethany had pulled him toward the doors, insisting it was their duty to keep order, if no one else would. And when the Qunari charged, she’d defended him, without even batting an eye, turning the Qunari against each other, in that completely disturbing way she had. Yes, she was a mage, but he’d made a good choice. He couldn’t think of anyone he’d rather have at his side, if he was to pull Starkhaven back from the brink of destruction. And when had he decided that? He wasn’t sure that was what he meant to do at all, but Bethany gave him faith he could do it, if he chose that path. He could do it, with her.
At the edge of the courtyard, there was movement amidst a pile of bodies. Anders’s fingers twitched, crackling with lightning, until he saw that the person moving wasn’t a Qunari. Lightning switched to healing, and he ran to the elf struggling to his feet. Anders kicked aside the corpse crushing his legs.
"Many thanks, my friend," said the elf once he’d wobbled to his feet. Anders saw the robes, then the face under the smear of blood.
"First Enchanter?" he blurted, earning a surprised blink and a smile from Orsino.
Anton followed Anders, looking about. Only then did he realise that the mess of corpses were Qunari mixed with robed humans and elves. "Looks like you fared better than the other mages," he said, glancing back at Bethany.
"The others," Orsino breathed. "Surely, they cannot all be…" He trailed off, looking around him at the devastation.
"I’m sorry," Bethany said. "By the time we made it out here…" She trailed off as well, shrugging helplessly.
Orsino’s face twisted with grief. As he fell to his knees in front of one of his students, another set of footsteps clomped into the courtyard. Or one set clomped while a second set padded.
"Maker," said Artemis, eyes wild and face pale. "There you are! All of you. Convenient. Ha. Did you know there were Qunari here? There are Qunari here. Qunari, on our lawn. Trampling the flowers and carrying off the neighbours. This is… this…" He scratched at one arm agitatedly, threatening to break the skin, until Fenris took his hand and hushed him gently.
"Oh, Artie, no…" Cormac groaned. "Go home. If you don’t want to go home, go back to the estate and keep Bodhan from worrying himself to bits. You don’t need to be out in this. We’ll take care of it. I’ll fix it for you." Cormac stepped closer, over a fallen mage, to cradle Artemis’s face in his hands, looking up into his brother’s eyes. "This is what they’ve done. Do you see? Bethany and I will go make it right," he said quietly, eyes pleading.
Artemis’s stare hardened, and he pulled free of Cormac’s hands. "Don’t baby me, Cormac," he snapped. "The city’s under attack, and you need all the help you can get. And besides, I— it’s— I need to do something. I can’t just sit and not do something. Can’t you see that’s worse? I’ll just get tangled up in my head, and everything’s… it’s…" He sucked in a long, shaky breath. "Just don’t worry about me, you idiot."
"I’ll always worry about you. It’s what I’m for," Cormac reminded his brother, with a sad smile. "We’re headed to the keep. The Knight-Commander’s waiting for us. Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m begging you, Artie, get out while the getting’s good. Don’t put yourself in front of her."
Carver punched Cormac in the back of the head and bruised his knuckles as they slid off the shield. "Our brother’s a grown-ass man, Cormac. Just because you’ve got some—"
Anton stomped on Carver’s foot.
"—damn fixation—" Carver glared at Anton. "—doesn’t mean he can’t make up his own mind, like the rest of us."
Cormac shook his head. "How’s our leverage? Do we have anything we can unseat her with, if it comes to that? We will have exactly no time, with the number of templars waiting for us up there."
"She said she’d overlook the family’s history of magic," Anton pointed out. "For now, at least. Hopefully, that means we have time to get leverage, before it gets serious."
"Who did she see?" Bethany demanded, looking at the other four mages.
Cormac raised his hand. "We didn’t know she was there. She wasn’t there, until the Qunari brought out a saarebas. Took the edge right off me, when she hit it."
Artemis’s eyes went wide again. "She…? Shit, Cormac." He poked Cormac in the chest with one finger. "Now you have less of a reason to talk. I’m going. And if she’s taking you, she’s taking me too."
"She can try," Fenris growled, and Anders hummed in agreement.
"To the keep then?" Artemis asked, pushing forward without waiting for a reply. "To the keep. Oh. Hello, First Enchanter."
"Hello, other Serah Hawke," Orsino said, bemused.
"You know, I was you in a dream once," Artie went on, rambling as they walked. "Funny story, that. Well. Not ‘ha, ha’ funny. The other sort of funny. The… ‘plucked quail left out overnight’ funny. You understand."
Orsino nodded slowly, his expression saying he didn’t.
Varric chuckled softly. "I should be writing all this down."
Meredith and a small army of templars waited for them outside the keep. Anton searched their faces or what he could see of them under their helmets, but there was no trace of Cullen. And that was fine. Cullen was fine. Of course he was. He had to be.
"First Enchanter Orsino," Meredith called out as they approached. "You survive."
"Your relief overwhelms me, Knight-Commander," Orsino replied dryly.
"There is no time for talk," Meredith said, firmly, striding toward them. "We must strike back before it’s too late."
"And who will lead us into this battle?" Orsino asked, derision as plain on his face as it was in his voice. "You?"
"I will fight to defend this city, as I have always done," Meredith proclaimed, turning to look down her shoulder at him, the stance of a hero’s statue.
"To control it, you mean!" Orsino retorted, squaring his shoulders. "I won’t have our lives tossed to the flames to feed your vanity!"
"Neither of you," Anton said, stepping through the cluster around him. "I know the Arishok. I know how he thinks and what he wants. I will lead us."
"You?" Meredith scoffed. "Some apostate’s son who’s been buttering up my Knight-Captain to keep his brother out of the Gallows?"
"I like him already," Orsino muttered.
"Me, the man who is very much in love with your Knight-Captain, and who is also aware of the nuances of the situation. I also have a translator who speaks Qunlat, in case we can still negotiate." Anton smiled, eyes glittering. "The Arishok wants only one thing. I don’t know how to get it, but I know what it is, and who likely has it, by now. I failed to retrieve it for him, once before. Had I done so, he and all his men would be gone. But, alas, thieves, more thieves, and Tevinter mages."
"And your failure is a reason to trust ourselves to your command?" Meredith shot back.
"No, but my inside knowledge is. I knew. You did not. I know what he wants. I know how he thinks. And if we go charging in through that door, everyone in there dies." Anton folded his arms and shrugged. "Do you want to save as many people as we can, or are you just looking for an excuse to purge the political structure and blame the Qunari. You won’t be the first to have tried that approach."
"It’s better than the two of us bickering about it," Orsino said, trying not to look smug.
Meredith grit her teeth. "Very well, then," she said. "But whatever you plan, be quick about it."
Anders ducked his head to hide a smirk. Anton Hawke, giving orders to the Knight-Commander? This was priceless.
"Tell us then," said Orsino, turning to Anton, "what is our course of action?"
And then it occurred to Anton just what he had volunteered for. He would be leading and not from the shadows. Oh damn. "I take it running for the hills isn’t an option?" he quipped. Meredith’s scowl deepened, her stare casting more of a chill than any of Cormac’s spells. "No? Then let’s find out what they’re up to."
"An excellent choice," Meredith said with only a trace of derision. "Let’s move quickly."
They gathered outside the gate, out of sight of the mob of Qunari at the keep’s door.
"There seem to be a great many Qunari at the keep’s entrance," Orsino murmured, peering around the corner.
"Then they’ve already take it over," Meredith said. "Clearly they’ve been planning this for some time."
Aveline politely nudged Orsino aside to peer at the door as well. "I don’t see any of my guardsmen," she said. They had to be inside. Donnic. Donnic had to be inside.
"This is the only way in," Meredith told Anton. "We must assault them now before their numbers grow."
"Are you mad?" Orsino hissed. "They have hostages! We need a distraction."
Anton and Cormac whispered to each other, for a moment, until Cormac nodded, turning his head to catch Bethany’s eye and subtly suggest she move closer to Orsino. As she moved, Anton whispered to Orsino. "I need you to block the view of my sister from Meredith. Do whatever else you think isn’t going to get you killed. Dance a spicy shimmy for all I care, but get in front of Bethy. She’ll take care of the Qunari problem on the steps. We’ll be right behind you."
"Have confidence, young Hawke." Orsino smiled and unshouldered his staff, walking straight down the middle of the courtyard, toward the Qunari on the stairs. "You will not conquer this city without a fight!" he called out, and the eyes of the Qunari were on him, as he threw an inferno toward them, fire raining from the heavens.
Anders made a small, panicked sound and swallowed hard, eyes looking a bit glazed. Cormac rubbed his back and gestured for Meredith and the templars to follow him. They went up one side of the courtyard, behind the pillars that supported the paths that ran to the battlements. The rest of the group, led by Bethany, went the other way.
As the Qunari charged down the stairs toward Orsino, he spread his hands, calling down some larger spell. And then the Qunari fell upon each other, slaying each other with the same force they’d meant to turn on the First Enchanter. He strolled past them, staff hanging loosely from one hand, a smile on his face. That, he decided, was the best use of Entropy he’d seen this year. Talented girl, no doubt, but her father had been talented, too. Maybe a little too talented.
While the Qunari chased Orsino and writhed on the ground, Anton gestured the others onward. They slipped past, ducking from one shadowed pillar to another, and then darted out behind the Qunari. His brothers weren’t the stealthiest bunch, but they didn’t need be with all that screaming going on behind them. They slipped through the door and into the keep.
Aveline’s breath caught in her throat. Two bodies just inside the door wore guards’ armour, but she couldn’t make out who they were without taking off their helmets. And that would take time they did not have. Varric squeezed her elbow, and she steeled herself. Compartmentalise. Later. She would grieve later. Right now they had died doing their duty. "The Arishok must be further in," she said.
"Probably the throne room," Anton said, "if the Qunari have rounded up the nobles. Only place big enough."
Fenris nodded, ear pricking. "Screams in that direction," he said. "Let’s go."