[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 141
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cullen ♂, Mia ♀, Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Anders ♂, Sandal ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Shouting, disgruntled siblings, magical experiments
Notes: An end to some difficulties.
Cullen hadn’t slept more than a few hours at a time, in almost a month. In his office before dawn, back in bed long after dark, and so little to show for it, but the way his cheeks looked a little hollower and his eyes looked almost like he’d been punched in both. Anton had been worried, trying to take him back to the estate, every night, but he knew the trouble he’d wind up in if his bed was never slept in. He’d let the recruits catch him passed out on his desk, in the mornings, a few times, in the hopes the time he did spend in Anton’s bed would just be written off as him sleeping in his office, again. But, he still wasn’t sleeping. It had gotten worse and worse, since he’d sent the letter to Solona. The fact that his family had made it out of Honnleath, alive, was a good sign, but that had been so early — what was to say they’d actually made it anywhere else, or that where they’d made it to had survived?
He leaned over the latest pile of paper on his desk, ink-stained fingers clutching at his hair, and tried to decide what to do with the news, when it came. Either way he’d have to do something. Just… nothing ever went the way it was meant to, for him.
The door creaked open, and one of the guards from downstairs appeared. "Captain, there’s a woman—"
"Maker’s balls, Cullen! You never write!" He knew that voice… "Get out of my way, you oaf!"
A small, blond woman in a plain, blue dress, ducked under the guard’s elbow and stormed into the room, slamming her hands down on the large, wooden desk. "They told us every templar in that tower died. No survivors. And here you are, almost six years later, in some fancy office, just now sending someone to find us?"
"I didn’t know there were any survivors, either, Mia." Cullen heaved himself out of his chair, platemail clanking, still leaning forward over the desk. "I had to find out from a golem!"
"Six years!" Mia was still yelling, hands still flailing in anger, when Cullen walked around the desk to wrap his arms around her, crushing her against his chest.
She was smaller than he remembered but a real, solid weight. Real. He was not dreaming this. A sharp pinch between plates told him that he was definitely not dreaming this.
"Ow!" he whined like he had when they were little. "Mia!"
"Your armour is poking into my cheek."
Cullen loosened his grip to hold her by the shoulders, smiling when he saw the glimmer of tears she was obviously holding back. Mia huffed and made a show of rubbing her cheek where a ridge of armour had dug in. "So you’re alive," she said.
"So you’re alive," Cullen repeated, his words as choked as hers. His smile slipped as he asked, "The others… Mum. Are they…?"
"Yes, also alive," Mia said, and Cullen felt like he could breathe for the first time in years. "And also assuming you were dead. Andraste’s bosom, you’re lucky I was the one who found you. Mum would have strung you up by the ears!"
"How are you all? Where are you all?" Cullen asked, still completely dazed. "And why didn’t you send a letter, when Solona caught up with you?"
"Why send a letter?" Mia asked, eyes narrowing as she squinted up at her brother. "It’s not like you ever answer them! No, no, when we were summoned to the Teryn’s offices, and told you were alive? I bought passage on the next ship heading to Kirkwall." She paused. "We’re living in Gwaren, you know. The Teryn is some Antivan elf. What’s an Antivan even doing holding a Fereldan terynir? And an elf! I don’t know what our nation is coming to, in the wake of that Blight."
Recognition flickered in the back of Cullen’s mind, as he remembered the letters where Solona talked about her husband. "An… Antivan elf? Little, blond, and makes you want to punch him in the face every time he opens his mouth?"
"That sounds like him. Do you know him?" Mia squinted suspiciously. "Do you know the Teryn of Gwaren, where we have been living, and it has still taken you this long to—"
"No! No. It’s… I know his wife. She’s the Warden-Commander of Amaranthine. Actually, she’s the Teryn of Gwaren. But, Warden politics, she says. Left him to look after the place for her. And I still didn’t know, Mia. She didn’t know." Cullen tipped his head down and bumped his forehead against his sister’s. "So, do you want to keep standing here and yelling at me, or would you like to shout at me over lunch? We can stop and get my fiancé, if you like, who I’m sure will agree with all the yelling."
"You’re getting married!?" Mia shouted, headbutting Cullen. "Why was that not the first thing out of your mouth? Who is she? Does she have a nice family? You didn’t get her pregnant, did you? Is she a mage?"
The guard still lingered in the doorway, snickering. He offered Cullen a helpless shrug.
"That’s, ah…" Cullen glared at the guard over Mia’s shoulder. "That will be all, thank you," he said, which was, he supposed, politer than saying ‘get lost’. The guard bowed his head, still smirking, and took his leave.
"Anyway." Cullen pressed a thumb and forefinger into his eyelids. "Not a mage, no, and not pregnant. Definitely not pregnant." Not unless the mages in or around his family had something they wanted to tell him.
Mia arced an eyebrow. "‘Definitely’ not? Oh dear. That doesn’t sound promising."
"No!" Cullen sputtered. "It’s not like—! Maker. He is not pregnant."
Mia’s other eyebrow rose to the same height as its twin. "Oh! He! That’s… wow! I didn’t know you… huh. Definitely not pregnant then." And she laughed, cackled really, and patted Cullen’s arm. "All right. Tell me about him, then."
"He’s…" Cullen struggled to find an adjective good enough. "Well, he comes from a large family. Nobles. All of them charming in their way, if a bit… eccentric." Another inadequate adjective. Cullen cleared his throat. "But… that was part of why I started looking for you now. I wanted our family to meet him, to be at our wedding. I know it’s… I should have looked sooner, but. I was afraid of what I’d find."
"Oh, nooo, we’ve all been swallowed by the Archdemon," Mia huffed, shoving Cullen’s shoulder. "Come on, then. Introduce me to Prince Charming. And there had better be decent restaurants in this grimy hole of a city, because I want something that’s not hardtack and dried meat. I ended up on a postal ship."
"So, even if you’d written, you’d have gotten here first." Cullen shook his head and laughed, finally letting go of his sister, to get his sword.
"Still take your sword everywhere?" Mia sounded almost surprised.
"It’s Kirkwall. It’s Kirkwall, and it’s Tuesday," Cullen sighed, wrapping an arm around Mia’s waist and leading her toward the door.
One of the things Bodhan had always appreciated about the Hawkes was that they’d given Sandal his own workshop — not just a room with a table, but whatever tools or materials the boy could convey that he needed would be arranged for him. In return, Sandal had made some truly incredible enchantments, that Bodhan would never have even considered. It was the best they could have done, on the surface, he thought, even if he did miss travelling through the Blight-ruined villages and rescuing the artefacts of people’s lives and histories. But, Messere Anton had similar tastes, he’d noticed, and he was sure there would be another venture into ruined lands, eventually.
But, right now, Sandal’s workshop contained three other people, all hard at work, on the same thing. He didn’t quite understand, aside from the fact that Messere Fenris needed some very specialised runes made, which was strange, given how little Messere Fenris cared for magic.
Anders held up the first rune once Sandal had finished with it. A rune of electricity, set into a simple leather band that could be worn like a bracelet. He prodded the rune, testing the voltage, and marvelled at the craftsmanship. He glanced at Sandal, the dwarf hard at work, bent over the next rune.
"I still think a collar would have been better," Anders said, shaking his head. "It’d be closer to your spine and less likely to–"
"No." Fenris was adamant about that. His hand went to the neck of his tunic, pulling it away from his throat as though, just by saying the word, Anders had summoned a collar onto his neck. "We’ve been over this, mage."
"This will work, too," Artemis soothed. "We’ll make it work." He smiled at Fenris and hoped they had better luck with this than they had the eluvian.
"The charge might still be on the low end," Anders said, holding the bracelet out to Fenris. "But it’s meant to complement another bracelet, and we can always up the charge later."
"Better not to fry the elf, yes," Artemis agreed, taking the bracelet instead. Fenris held out his arm, and Artie clasped it around his wrist. The markings on that arm lit, from rippling upward from wrist to shoulder, and Fenris’s breath hitched. "All right?" Artie asked, eyes intent on Fenris.
"Yes," Fenris said, flexing the fingers of his glowing hand. The current was still weak, nothing compared to what he was used to from Anders, let alone Artemis, but it soothed some of the ache in that arm.
"So, while we’re sitting here, getting you some runes, have you considered your armour?" Anders asked. "Leather’s nice, but you’ve only got a few plates, and after the number of times I’ve had to put your elbow back together…"
"Mage, you go into combat in a damned leather dress. How is my armour any less effective?" Fenris glared at Anders.
"Well, my ‘leather dress’, as you put it, is enchanted."
"Enchantment!" Sandal agreed.
"I’m also not usually throwing myself in front of swords," Anders pointed out.
Fenris rolled his eyes and nodded, tipping his head to the side as he conceded the point. "If this works, I will consider it. I will not become dependent on magic."
"What? No. Never depend on magic. You never know when you’ll walk into a Templar. But, if you can get a little boost, it’s just a bonus. Damage control, really," Anders explained, before muttering a string of incomprehensible half-words and numbers to Sandal, who clapped his hands and nodded.
"Never depend on magic? That’s a strange sentiment, coming from you," Fenris noted, squinting up at Anders.
"Not really. I use it for a lot of things, but I can mostly get by without it. Mostly. Without my magic, people die, but that’s not a lack of skill on my part. In combat, I can very effectively punch things. I punched a hurlock, after some idiot templar panicked and wiped out thirty feet of magic, in every direction. Won that fight, too. It’s nice. I like it. I’ll always reach for it first. But, it’s not essential, unless I’m trying to save lives." Anders shrugged, and then turned back to Sandal.
"You… punched a hurlock?" Artemis asked, fighting not to laugh. "Now that is something I would have liked to see. But Anders is right. Magic is a tool, a nice tool… sometimes… but even mages need a Plan B."
Fenris quirked an eyebrow at Artemis. "Like your ‘Plan B’ is to beat people into submission with a broom handle?"
"Maker’s balls, that was one time!" Artie groaned. "But I’ll have you know I know how to handle a staff. A mage staff. A… polearm. Maker, there’s no way for me to say that that doesn’t sound dirty, is there?"
"Mage, I am more than familiar with your skill in… polearms."
Anders bit his lip to keep from laughing. Sandal distracted him with a tug on his sleeve, and Anders looked down at the dwarf’s round eyes and at the second, faintly glowing strip of leather with a new rune in the middle. "Enchantment?" Sandal asked, offering Anders the second bracelet.
"Enchantment," Anders agreed. He went through the same diagnostic tests, turned the bracelet this way and that, checking the charge, before handing it off to Artie. Artie in turn strapped the second bracelet around Fenris’s wrist.
Fenris made a sound like a purr, the lines in his face easing. The bracelets created a circuit, trading electricity back and forth, rippling through lyrium tattoos and replacing their ache with a tingling warmth.
Artemis watched him for a moment, a smile breaking over his face. "Well," he said. "No elves are on fire. Did it work?"
"Yes." Fenris slid down in his chair, resting his head against he back of it, staring up at the ceiling in vacant relief. "Mage problem. Magical solution. I should have seen that sooner."
"You hate magic. The solution sounded like it should have been less magic, not more." Anders shrugged and shook Sandal’s hand.
"I am still not entirely enthused with magic," Fenris grumbled, adjusting the buckles on one wrist.
"I’d worry if you were." Anders laughed. "How far does that reach? Is it getting everything, or do we need to think about your ankles? I’d rather not run too much through you, just to reach your toes — it’s better to add a rune than to up the charge, for that."
"For now, this is an amazing improvement. Perhaps later, I will have complaints, when I have worn these for a time. But, right now, I can feel my mind, and that is more than I ever imagined until…" Fenris shrugged, instead of finishing the sentence. It wasn’t something he wanted to talk about, especially in front of Sandal.
Artemis smiled, his gaze soft as he ran a hand through Fenris’s hair. Fenris’s eyes slid closed, and if he became any more boneless, he would become one with the chair.
"Thank you, Sandal," Artie said, and Sandal beamed.
"I like enchantment," the dwarf informed them, bobbing his head happily as Bodhan helped him put his tools away.