[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 122
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Aveline ♀, Varric ♂, Merrill ♀, Anders ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Fenris ♂, Sebastian ♂, Isabela ♀
Rating: M (L2 N0 S0 V3 D0)
Warnings: It’s a war, stabbing, angry magic, death, near-death experiences
Notes: A duel to the death, with an unexpected twist. I’M SPARTACUS.
Aside from the dead guards, the destruction inside was minimal. Artemis had stopped scratching at his arms for the moment, grip tight on his staff as he walked next to Cormac.
Carver threw open the doors into the throne room in time for the Viscount’s head to roll to a stop on his feet. Anton screwed his eyes shut and swore.
"You dare!" a nobleman shouted from among the crowd. "You are starting a war!" He looked like he might go on, but a Qunari warrior stepped up behind him and broke his neck, without a word.
"Look at you. Like fat dathrasi you feed and feed and complain only when your meal is interrupted." The Arishok’s voice rolled through the room like subtle thunder, low and dangerous. "You do not look up. You do not see that the grass is bare. All you leave in your wake is misery. You are blind. I will make you see."
Anton led his own people into the room, leaving Meredith and Orsino to deal with the problem outside. The few bodies didn’t appear to be anyone he knew — or at least not anyone he knew well. Probably from out of town, bidding on an estate that had just come up, when a family had decided to trade it in for a house in Val Royeax. The Arishok stood before the throne, looking dispassionately down at all of them, as they entered.
"But we have guests," the Arishok said, and all eyes turned to the back of the room. "Shanedan, Hawke. I expected you." He descended the stairs, axe still held at his hip. "But, for all your might, you are no different than these bas. You do not see."
"We see the same things," Anton reminded him. "Where we differ is the matter of the solution. You seem content to start a war on principle, rather than addressing the actual needs of the people. You’ll see them die miserable, just as they would otherwise, but more quickly, which is some bleak mercy, I suppose."
"And what would the Qunari be without principle?" the Arishok asked, eyes narrowing. "You, I suspect." He said it as if it were the greatest of insults. He shook his head and waved his hand dismissively, climbing back up the stairs. "Prove yourself, basra, or kneel with your brethren."
Anton didn’t need to ask what he meant, not when he and his friends and family found themselves surrounded by Qunari, Qunari who ushered back their noble captives at spear-point. "We don’t need to do this, Arishok," Anton said, even as he slipped a knife into his palm. "Haven’t I proved myself already?"
The Arishok looked on dispassionately, doing and saying nothing. He waved his hand, and the spear-bearing Qunari tightened their circle. Anton nudged Bethany with his elbow, and the three Qunari directly in front of him fell, writhing and screaming. Two more went slamming into the wall, and then the room erupted in a mess of magic and blades.
Cormac crushed the pair of Qunari guarding the door, and while they imploded, he waved the nobles out into the hall. "Viscount’s office," he whispered, pointing down the way, before he paid any mind to the fight behind him. "Wait there. Don’t try to get out. I’m not sure what’s in the courtyard, but it was a battle when I left it."
The nobles looked terrified, which was good, Cormac thought. It made it less likely that any of them had intentionally let the Qunari into the keep. It was more likely none of them realised what was happening, until it was too late. He still wondered if any of the guards had survived. Behind him, his brother and sister were destroying the Arishok’s best warriors, and he turned in time to watch the last one fall away from his brother’s dagger.
"Parshaara," the Arishok said, looking mildly impressed, as he came down the stairs again. "You are basalit-an after all. Few in this city command such respect. So, tell me, Hawke. You know I am denied Par Vollen until the Tome of Koslun is found. How would you see this conflict resolved, without it?"
With a heavy thud, a Qunari warrior slid up the carpet, face first, and both the Arishok and Anton looked toward the door, where Isabela walked in, carrying the tome and followed by someone in heavy plate. "Hey, Anton! Look what I found in the hall!" She cocked her thumb back and the templar behind her removed his helmet.
"Cullen?" Anton squeaked. "What are you— Never mind. Thanks for the save, Izzy. Your trap work as expected?"
"Not as well as I’d hoped." Isabela shrugged and stepped on the freshest corpse as she made her way to the Arishok, handing him the book. "I’m sure you’ll find it’s mostly undamaged."
The Arishok turned the tome over in his hands. "The Tome of Koslun," he said, his tone reverent.
Cullen stepped up to Anton’s side, one gauntleted hand squeezing Anton’s shoulder, relief plain on his face.
"It took me a while to get back, what with all the fighting everywhere," Isabela said, nudging Anton on his other side. "You know how it is."
"Heroic acts of sacrifice?" Anton said, nudging her back. "What will people say?"
"This is your damned influence," Isabela huffed. "You and your unfairly gorgeous family!" Behind them, Sebastian, Fenris, and Anders exchanged looks and nods of agreement. "I was halfway to Ostwick before I knew I had to turn back." She shook her head and muttered, "It’s pathetic."
Anton grinned. "Poor you," he teased. "Keep it up, and you’ll be the hero of Varric’s next book!"
The Arishok was more concerned with the book in his hands, which he passed off to one of his soldiers, every gesture, every touch delicate in a way no one thought the Arishok capable. "The relic is reclaimed," he said. "I am now free to return to Par Vollen." Anton let out a breath. Thank the Maker. This nightmare was over! "With the thief."
The cocky grin slid from Isabela’s lips. "What?"
"Oh, no, no, no," Aveline growled, pushing her way forward. "If anyone kicks her ass, it’s me."
"She stole the Tome of Koslun," the Arishok replied, once more hefting his axe. "She must return with us."
"You have your relic," Bethany said. "She stays with us." She sneaked a lyrium potion out of Anders’s pouch and readied a spell at her fingertips.
"I’m sure he’ll take that well," Varric muttered. "Rivaini? You might want to move a bit this way."
Isabela stepped back, and Cormac moved into a spot where he had a clear shot at the Arishok, before realising Varric wasn’t talking to him.
"Then you leave me no choice," the Arishok said, regret plain on his face. "I challenge you, Hawke. You and I will battle to the death, with her as the prize."
"No! If you’re going to duel anyone, duel me!" Isabela insisted, moving forward again.
"You are not basalit-an. You are unworthy," the Arishok explained.
"He needs to protect his image, in case of defeat," Fenris muttered, from somewhere behind the group. "What would be said about the Qunari, or the Qun, if the Arishok were defeated by some half-competent pirate?"
"I’ll have you know I’m a wholly-competent pirate, Broody!" Isabela shot back, with a glance over her shoulder.
"Pirates aside, let’s dance this tango," Anton suggested, knives already drawn and laying back against his forearms. "Of course, you issued the challenge to ‘Hawke’, which I am, but…"
Cormac started nudging people off the rug, until he came up behind Isabela, and patted her hip. "As his brother, so am I."
Isabela doubled over in laughter, and Fenris reached out to pull her aside. What was Cormac doing? Fenris was sure this wasn’t a good idea.
"Me too. I’m Hawke," Carver said, resting the point of his sword on the rug, next to Anton.
"So am I," said Artemis, stepping forward and throwing a wink at Fenris, who looked even less thrilled with this development.
"And I as well," said Bethany primly as she came to stand next to her brothers. "Can’t let you boys have all the fun."
The Arishok blinked at all of them, looking as close to surprised as his stony face had ever been. The five Hawkes stood in front of him, staring at him with the same defiant blue eyes, and a laugh rumbled in the Arishok’s chest. "Perhaps I should have chosen my words more carefully," he said, nodding at Anton. "Very well, then. I challenge the Hawke family, if you think that will give you an edge. You will die either way, and if you wish to sacrifice your brothers and sister as well, that is your choice."
"Said the Arishok, with great humility," Artemis muttered.
"All right then," said Anton, with a smile. "Shall we dance?"
"Meravas!" exclaimed the Arishok as he descended the last few steps, drawing a sword with his free hand, a sword taller than Anton. "So shall it be!"
Hawkes scattered as the Arishok charged, leading with his horns and that massive sword. Twisting behind a pillar, Bethany reached for the spell she’d used earlier, but the Arishok’s mind slid from her grasp like oil through her fingers. "Damn," she murmured, reaching for another spell.
Anton slid under the sword and the Arishok, opening up a pair of shallow cuts on the Arishok’s thighs, as he passed. Raising his sword, Carver stepped in to block the blow, but was driven to his knees under the force of it. That had not gone as intended.
"A warrior!" The Arishok looked amused. "A pity you won’t live to improve your skills."
"Will he not?" Cormac asked, clenching his fist. "I rather thought there might be another forty years in him, at least. My brother’s still young, yet."
The Arishok buckled in the grip of Cormac’s magic, but he had the strength of will and body to resist much of the force of it. Cullen looked on in horror, as he recognised what Cormac had been trying to do. Still, this was the first time he’d actually witnessed Cormac casting a spell. It didn’t seem to be the sort of thing he reached for, outside of situations in which Cullen might reach for his sword. That was not unreasonable, he decided.
Shaking off the magic, the Arishok stepped in and slammed his fist into Cormac’s face — only to hit a shield. This didn’t slow him in the least, and he pounded his fist against the shield around Cormac’s head, as the mage staggered under the force of the blows. Anders leapt forward, only for Fenris to haul him back.
"No. Leave it. If you step in, the rest of them will attack." Fenris was trying to reassure himself, as much as Anders. "Look at how the Hawkes have circled around behind him. He’s too much focused on Cormac."
"Cormac did get punched by an ogre," Anders reminded himself.
Finally, Cormac lost his footing and fell. He still breathed, but he didn’t move any more than that.
"No!" Artemis roared, curling his fingers and pulling the Arishok towards him. The air around him shimmered and popped the way it did when Cormac’s shields dropped, but Artie didn’t notice. "Get away from him, you glorified cow!" The Arishok’s feet scrabbled at the floor, carpet bunching under him, and Anton dived in just out of range of the spell to get in a few more slashes. Carver struggled to his feet.
Cullen watched Artemis pull the Arishok face-first into a pillar. He stared at Artie, then at Cormac, then at Artie again. "What."
Bethany darted out from behind her pillar, magic sizzling at her fingertips and making the Arishok glow a sickly green. "What," Cullen said again.
"Mages," Fenris informed him, reaching up to shut Cullen’s mouth with one finger under his jaw.
And speaking of mages, the Arishok was much too close to his for his liking. Blood gushed from the Qunari’s broken nose from where he’d slammed into the pillar, but he snarled through it, batting aside Carver with the flat of his axe when the templar charged at him again. Anton swore and ducked under the Arishok’s sword, dancing back out of its reach. Feet scrabbled for the floor again as Artie smacked the Arishok back into the same pillar, butt-first this time.
The Arishok shook off the blow, tightened his grip on each weapon, and charged at Artemis with a roar of frustration. Artie let him come, staring the Qunari down as he reached for another spell, waiting for the right moment. Just when the Arishok was close enough, Artie clenched his fist, meaning to drag him down into the floor while his siblings were out of range. But the Arishok stumbled without going down, retaliating with a broad sweep of his axe.
"Shit," Artemis breathed as the axe cut through air where his shield should have been. The pain came a moment later in a blinding rush, blood spilling through the fingers he clutched to his stomach. Metal screeched against metal as Carver dived in, blocking the Arishok’s next blow. Behind him, Artemis slipped to the floor.
"Shit," Anders echoed, healing rising to his fingers. "No." He batted Fenris’s hands away from him. "No!" He flicked a spell in Cormac’s direction, as he bolted across the floor, heading for Artemis. "No, please, I’m a healer. He won’t get involved in the fight again. I just don’t want him to die," he argued with the Qunari who moved to keep him away from Artemis. He didn’t need to be that close, though. Not to start. A wave of healing washed over Artie, still strong, since Anders hadn’t been working all day. The bleeding slowed and the lesser scrapes vanished.
"It is a fight to the death," the Qunari reminded him.
"You will let me past," Anders responded, a flicker of blue light dancing down his arms. "It’s not optional." The two Qunari before him burst into flame, and several of the banners hanging on the walls went, too.
"Bas saarebas!" one shouted, batting at the fire. They dropped to the ground, rolling to put themselves out, and Anders simply kept walking. Perhaps he’d heal them, when this was all over. It wasn’t their fault. They had jobs to do, and so did he.
Nothing else moved to stop him, and he sank to his knees, beside Artemis, beginning the long process of re-attaching all the important parts. First stop the blood, then worry about the rest. Justice would help him make this right.
Across the room, Cormac dragged himself to his feet, taking in the scene before him. Anton and Carver were baiting the Arishok like bullfighters, but they didn’t seem to be holding up so well. Neither did the Arishok, honestly, and Cormac could guess which of Bethy’s hexes had finally taken hold. Where was—
He saw the blood, first, and then Anders kneeling beside Artemis. Artie looked strangely pale, and Anders was emitting a pretty steady glow. No. That was not how this worked. That was not acceptable. He didn’t even know the scream was coming, until it burbled out of his chest. Cormac’s entire body glowed indigo, as the Arishok turned, shocked that he’d gotten back up.
"Basalit-an," the Arishok admitted, watching the blood run down Cormac’s face from his broken nose.
"Saarebas," Cormac reminded him, eyes wide and glimmering, even as he became indistinct. "I am a very dangerous thing."
The Arishok had never seen anything like it. The bas saarebas was only half-there, as if he had simply ceased to be. The hand holding the axe lashed out, and another Hawke dropped to the ground, clutching a broken face.
"You stay away from my brother," Cormac hissed, charging forward. The Arishok’s sword passed through him, and he plunged a hand into the Arishok’s chest.
Fenris sucked in a sharp breath. Cormac had been practising, since that time in the old fortress. "That is what you watched me do," he told Cullen. "I am still not a mage."
Electricity sparkled from the Arishok’s skin, and his sword and axe fell to the ground. Ripples of energy flickered between his horns, danced between his fingers. He fell, at last, when Cormac could no longer hold him up, the hand sliding out of his chest, just as bloodlessly as it went in. Cormac looked grey, as he nudged the body with his foot, checking for life.
"That I cannot do." Fenris’s eyes were wide.
"And thank the Maker," Sebastian muttered from behind him. "A dangerous thing."
"Who wants to die, today?" Cormac roared, his voice echoing through a chamber designed to amplify sound.