Title: Brotherly Love: 9:16 Dragon
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: You’d be concerned, if there weren’t four more parts in this series.
Notes: Cormac’s 13, Artie’s 11. Gentlemen, you’re mages. There’s a better way to do this.
Artemis stretched his arm as far as it would go, the tips of his fingers brushing the plump pear dangling overhead before Cormac staggered a step back, pulling him back out of range. "Maker’s breath," Artie muttered, just because Mum wasn’t around to scold him for his language. "Cormac, hold still!"
It had seemed like a good idea. The pears looked ripe and ready to be plucked, but neither of them was tall enough on his own to reach more than the lowest-hanging fruit. Too bad Cormac’s shoulders made for a wobbly stool. Swearing again, Artie braced one hand on Cormac’s head, clutching a fistful of hair as he made another swipe for the pear.
"Andraste’s flaming ass!" Cormac swore, and quite loudly. Still not something he’d have said in front of their mother, but dad was a bit looser about what he’d tolerate, and Andraste always seemed to be fair game. With no one but his brother to hear, he occasionally got outright creative. But, this time, he was otherwise occupied with the seriousness of the situation. "Quit pulling! We’re going to go over!"
And that was the terrifying thing, here, that they were standing on the banks of a river. Cormac didn’t know which one, and it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that the roots of the tree were wound down into the water, and he was balanced between them, trying not to drop his brother into the rushing water behind him. He’d have done anything Artie asked of him, of course, but this… this really didn’t top his list of good ideas. But, Artie wanted a pear — wanted that pear — and damned if Cormac wasn’t going to do anything he could to make sure that happened. He had thought about saying no, about pointing out how ridiculously dangerous it was going to be, but Artie had made those sad eyes at him, and he’d just knelt down so his brother could climb onto his shoulders, because that was the obvious thing to do.
"No, we’re not," Artie insisted, even as he teetered a little too far forward, his stomach flipping. "I’ve almost got it!" Because now that pear was a challenge he was determined to meet. He would get that Maker-damned (sorry, Mum) pear if it was the last pear in Thedas!
Tongue between his teeth, Artie adjusted his stance on his brother’s shoulders and finally wrapped his free hand around the fruit. "Aha!" he cried in victory, only for his foot to slip down his brother’s shoulder, catching in his tunic. His ‘aha!’ turned into an ‘ah!’ as he fell hard on Cormac’s shoulder.
Cormac panicked and grabbed at the tree, catching a fistful of leaves as he rocked backward. This was fine. He could still get them both back from this — and then he couldn’t, when the edge of the bank crumbled under his foot, and the leaves tore off in his hand. They hit the water a bit apart from each other, Artie falling into a quicker current, as Cormac looked for some way to get them back out. At this rate, they’d end up in the Chasind Wilds before too long, or so he thought. Assuming the river was headed south. Which, right now, Cormac couldn’t remember. But, Artie was way up the river, now, and Cormac wasn’t catching up.
Only one thing for it, Cormac thought, and cast a barrier spell around his brother — an unmoving bubble in the middle of the river. Finally, he caught up and draped himself across the top of the barrier, exhausted from fighting the river. "A minute," he panted. "Give me a minute, and I’ll get us out of here."
Artemis stared up at Cormac through the bubble, somehow managing to look equal parts terrified and furious. At least he had something solid to stand on now, the current no longer speeding past and over him, and he spat out the water in his lungs. "Maker’s tits, Cormac!" he shrieked, looking around him, wild-eyed. They were in the middle of a river. They were in the middle of a river, in and on top of a magic bubble. Artie wondered if a push would help. Maybe he could nudge them back towards the riverbank… or maybe he’d accidentally knock his idiot brother off the giant bubble.
"Andraste’s balls, Artemis! Maybe if you didn’t kick me in the shoulder, we wouldn’t be in this mess!" Cormac huffed, clinging to the bubble, which was a lot harder than it looked, he reflected. This spell made an extremely smooth surface. And that meant hanging on until help came was right out. Not to mention the part where ‘help’ was likely to turn them in to the templars.
He eyed the bank of the river. Too far away for him to grab. Way too far. But… "Hey, Artie? I need you to throw me. I need the biggest force push you’ve got in you. I can get you out, but I have to get me out, first. I’m not letting go of the spell. You’re not going anywhere, until I can find a way to get you out of there." Trees. Trees, trees, and more trees. And Artie was probably about to smack him into one. But, there would be something. He just had to think of it.
Artemis glanced back and forth between the treeline and Cormac. "You— I— Cormac, you know my aim is bad!" And that was more fear than fury in Artie’s eyes now. He could see his brother’s grip slipping, knew they didn’t have time to argue. He also knew there was a good chance he’d throw Cormac back into the river or break his spine against a tree.
Artie forced himself to take a deep breath, or as deep a breath as he could in the watertight bubble, and reached for magic he usually tried so hard to keep suppressed. "Please work," he prayed before shoving outwards. The water in the bubble swayed, and Cormac went flying backwards towards the bank, by the grace of the Maker just barely avoiding smacking into another tree.
"Cormac?" Artemis shouted. "Cormac!" He held his breath, but the bubble held.
Cormac hit the ground like a suddenly-flightless dragon, skidding and tumbling across rocks and tree roots, until he finally stopped, staring up at the patterns of the leaves against the sky. While he tried to remember how to breathe, he lifted one hand and threw a flare of fire just a couple of feet into the air, still well-concealed by the trees, but probably enough for Artie to know he was all right.
Artie, who was still in the water.
Deciding against standing up, Cormac dragged himself back to the edge of the river. Standing up would have required more of his wits than he really had to spare, after that rather intimate introduction to the ground. His first thought, looking out at his brother, was to freeze the water. He could make a bridge. Except he couldn’t — the water moved much too fast, and the first three attempts got swept away before they even reached the bubble. Had to be something. Had to be—
It was a terrible idea, but no worse than the one that had gotten them into this mess. "Artie? Walk toward me. Climb up the side of the barrier a bit."
At first, Artie was too focused on how he was going to die to hear his brother. He’d tried force pushing the bubble while he was in it, but it didn’t budge, and he’d watched Cormac’s ice spell glide and crack and dissipate over the water. He was going to die. Cormac wouldn’t be able to get him out or he would lose the spell. The river still thrashed around him, and Artemis could feel the bubble running out of air, air he started breathing in too shallowly and too fast.
But Artemis shook himself and tried to focus, strained to hear what Cormac was shouting at him over the water. He obeyed, nodding his head, and pressed himself as close to the side of the bubble as he could. He hoped Cormac knew what he was doing but suspected he didn’t.
Cormac cast the barrier again, as close as he could get it to Artie’s back without splitting his brother in half, and dropped the first, before it could get too claustrophobic. He hoped.
Artemis rocked forward into the open space of the new bubble, the sensation of being closed in on all sides still sitting with him. "This is your plan?" he shrieked. "Are you nuts?"
"Yes! Did you ever doubt that?" Cormac shrugged frustratedly. "But, it’s working. So, shut up and move, so I can keep casting!"
He timed the spells to his brother’s increasingly frustrated and irate ranting, moving the shelter of the bubble forward, every few seconds and carrying Artemis with it. One step, and then another. Cormac could feel his own shields weakening, the magic burning in his fingers and the burn crawling up his arms. Just one more, he kept telling himself, and finally they reached land, with no more than an inch of water in the bottom of the bubble. "Step up before I drop this. I can’t do that again."
Trembling with nerves, Artemis obeyed one last time, sagging in relief when his feet met the ground. "Andraste’s balls," Artemis squeaked, slumping to his knees next to his brother. "You are insane. Absolutely insane." He sounded as much impressed as irritated.
Artie realised he was still clutching the pear. He loosened his grip before he ended up bruising the fruit.
Cormac lost track of time, distracted by the sharp, burning smell of his shield falling. "You—?" ‘All right,’ he’d meant to ask, but the world swirled, and everything got all blue-black. He stumbled back out of a dream about getting told off, by a Fade spirit who sounded surprisingly like his mother, to the sound of the river and the sight of the water-soft bank he was still stretched out beside. His brother. Where was— "Artie? Artie, tell me I didn’t lose you!"
"No, you idiot." Artemis was tempted to drop the pear on his head. "I’m right here."
‘Right here’ was sitting next to Cormac, his back propped up against a tree. He fiddled with the pear in his hand, trying and failing to keep the worry off his face. "Are you all right?" Artie asked. "Aside from the atrocious hair, that is." He pointed at Cormac’s drying hair and the way it was starting to curl.
"My hair is not atrocious!" Cormac snarled, trying to find the magic he needed to straighten it again. "Just because you got mum’s hair…" There was no magic left in him. No sparks came to his fingertips, and his arms still ached like he’d burned his bones. Heaving a sigh of frustration, he pulled himself forward and dipped his head in the river, so he could at least plait his hair, which sometimes worked, when it was still wet. Once it dried, though, he couldn’t do anything with it. It would be a giant ball of fluff on top of his head. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite get his fingers to work like he wanted them to, and his hair wasn’t going to look good, no matter what he did to it, at this point.
Finally, he realised Artie had asked him something before that comment about his hair. "Yeah. Yeah, I’m… not sure I’m ever going to be able to cast another spell, but I think I’m in one piece, unless there’s something you want to tell me, before I try to sit up." The shield hadn’t come back yet, he noticed, and that scared him.
"Still in one piece," Artie confirmed. He rolled to his knees next to Cormac and swatted his hands away from his hair. "You always make the plaits crooked. Here." He pressed the pear into his brother’s hand instead. "I’ve already come out victorious over the pear, and you look like you could use it." Hands now free, Artemis parted Cormac’s hair and started it to braid it. His own hair had dried, curling around his ears but otherwise behaving.
Artie kept an eye on Cormac as his fingers moved, relieved to see him awake. For all the swearing and shouting he planned to do later, he’d been so worried when Cormac had passed out like that.
"I fell in a river to get you this pear," Cormac grumbled. "It’s yours. I’m sure we’ll pass something on the way home." ‘Home’ for certain values of that word, anyway. They hadn’t had a regular place to stay since Honnleath, and the wagon they’d left town in had evolved into something a little more like what he imagined elven aravels to be. Not that he’d seen one. But, he meant to. He’d heard incredible stories about the Dalish. "This isn’t the only orchard on this road."
He kept the pear in his hands, though, sure that if he set it on the ground, Artie wouldn’t eat it. Still, he supposed he’d gotten out of this pretty well — his brother was safe, and that same perfectionist brother was doing his hair. "We have to find a better way to do this. Something that doesn’t end up with both of us in a river."