[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 198
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Merrill ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, demons, extremely literal swording
Notes: Demons. Why is it always demons?
"Well, at least we’ve found the book," Merrill said. She gestured at the pedestal, where a tome lay open, as though someone had just set it down for a minute, planning to pick it up the next. From here she could see charts, drawings, words filling the pages. She should have a closer look, she decided, only to look down and realise that she was already halfway across the room. "Oh," Merrill said, throwing her arms out as the room seemed to rock. It stilled again when she looked back at the book.
Bethany frowned, hooking a hand in Artemis’s collar and holding him in place when he started creeping towards the book too. His eyes had that same glazed sheen as Merrill’s.
"Mm?" Artie turned his head sluggishly to look at Bethany.
"I think I found our trap," Bethany said. She tried to hoist Artie back, but he didn’t budge. Right. Force magic. She hated that, sometimes.
"What?" Anders turned around and eyed Artemis, before following his gaze… to the book. "Oh, the book…" He hurried across the room.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Cormac cast the barrier with his eyes on Anders’s feet. "Three mages down. That’s not just any lure, is it?" He cast another barrier as Merrill started to drift back toward the book, still facing the wrong way to get a solid look at it, himself. "If I hold them, can you solve that problem? I’d have to get close enough to pick it up, I think, and that’s much too late."
"You’re going to lose Anders, if I try," Bethany pointed out. "Hopefully, it won’t matter, but…"
"But, don’t lose the healer. Right." Cormac rubbed his face. "Well, he’s not going to get far…. Anyway, if you hit him with it, isn’t that going to help?"
"You’re assuming I can do anything with it." Bethany shrugged. "If that’s not just something the last mage who touched it put on it, we might be dealing with something way beyond either of us."
"And we’re the last mages standing, so it’s up to us." Cormac readied another barrier. "Do it. If I lose my grip, it’s only going to be a couple of seconds."
Bethany nodded. It was awkward casting with one hand, the hand holding her staff, but she managed it.
"I don’t understand what the big deal is," Artie rambled, eyes still on the book as Bethany’s hand twisted. "It’s a book. Weren’t we after the book?"
The spell hit, and he stopped talking, finally blinking. The barriers fell, and Anders and Merrill took compulsory steps forward only to stop, rocking back on their heels. "Huh," said Anders, looking around. He didn’t remember walking over here. He couldn’t tell if the uneasiness twisting his gut belonged to Justice or himself. Or to both of them. This close to the book, the air was thick with… ‘evil’ was the only word that came to mind. It seeped into his skin, made it crawl and itch, and Anders stopped himself from scratching at his skin the way Artemis did when he was agitated.
"Can I let you go now?" Bethany asked Artie, one hand still fisted in his collar. "Or should I have asked Fenris if I could borrow his leash?"
Artie’s ears and cheeks burned red. "You can let go," he mumbled, staring down at the floor. He didn’t dare look directly at the book again, not after that. Bethany nodded and eased her fingers out of his tunic, pausing to smooth over the fabric she had crinkled.
"Well," said Merrill with a nervous laugh, "that was interesting."
"Okay, that was exciting." Cormac glanced around, still without turning around. "So, one of us should probably get the book. That’s probably me. Anders, make sure it doesn’t … do that again, would you please? I can handle most things it can throw at me, but that’s not on the list."
"Nor are dog farts," Bethany pointed out.
Anders kept his eyes on the floor as he cast, a greenish glow rising up under the pedestal holding the book. "It’s still not going to handle demons."
"Good thing I’m not planning on summoning any of those," Cormac muttered, adding an anti-magic field just past his shields. He backed toward the pedestal, with Merrill calling out directions. "Okay, Artie? If I turn into an idiot, I’m going to need you to grab me. From over there. Don’t actually get any closer to me or this book than you have to if this goes ugly."
After a few more deep breaths, he turned around and grabbed the book, eyes skating down the open pages. "Looks like it’s got instructions for summoning demons. One, in particular, on this page. But, I’m not saying any of these words until I am twice-damned sure it’s not going to finish something half-cast in here."
"Well, you’re not drooling and lurching around," Anders pointed out. "I suspect the book’s done what it’s going to do."
And then Cormac stepped off the edge of the ward.
Anders felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end, blue light flitting over his skin before receding. Justice stood at attention at the scent of the Fade so close. Next to the book — and Cormac — the Veil tore, and out stepped a demon, a desire demon judging by the horns, the tail, the curves of the body. At least Izzy wasn’t here to be tempted with ‘big boats’.
Artemis readied a spell, but Merrill put a hand on his arm. "Wait," she murmured. "Let’s hear what she has to say."
"He," the demon corrected, looking around. "And I see this place is as cheery as the last time I was here. Oh lovely."
Artemis glared at Merrill but dropped his hand.
Cormac smiled impolitely up at the demon towering over him. The creature was taller than Anders, and that was mildly upsetting, he decided. "Have you come to fulfil our fondest desires, then?" he asked, remembering Bethany’s advice. "I have to say, we were taught never to trust demons, but if you’re willing to prove good faith, I might consider your offer."
Justice lit Anders’s eyes, the two struggling for control. The demon was much too close to Cormac for Anders’s taste, and if Justice stepped forward, Cormac would be the first to fall, he had no doubt. The shields would only go so far.
"Well! I always favour an open mind." The demon bowed. "Let us make an acquaintance, then, and discuss this gesture of good faith. I am Xebenkeck."
"And you know who I am, but you wish to hear it from my lips." Cormac’s smile grew wider. "Cormac Hawke. Mage of some lesser distinction."
"Such humility. You sell yourself short. You could have been the Champion of Kirkwall. Perhaps the champion she deserved. Certainly the champion your poor brother deserves. What about your brother, then—" Xebenkeck purred, but Cormac cut him off.
"Fuck my brother. I know everything I need to about my brothers. What I want to know about is Kirkwall," Cormac replied, still smiling.
"Fuck your brother, indeed…" Xebenkeck’s eyebrows lifted, and a sly smile crept across his face. His next words turned into a shout of surprise as he shot backward, back and skull cracking against the nearest wall.
"Artemis!" Bethany hissed, her eyes wide and betrayed as he readied another spell.
"Don’t ‘Artemis’ me, Bethy," he muttered. "Fuck your demon politics. You weren’t there in the Fade. I’ve heard enough."
"So much for civility," Xebenkeck growled, pushing off the wall and cracking his neck. "Here I am, trying to have a nice conversation with your brother about —" Another smack into the wall. Artemis felt as much as heard Xebenkeck’s next growl.
"Artie, maybe we should stop smacking around the demon?" Merrill suggested. But it too late. Xebenkeck twisted his clawed hands, and the Veil tore again. Abominations and rage demons clawed through the floor.
Anders clutched his forehead, shutting his eyes against a blue glow.
"Into the hall!" Cormac shouted. "Don’t think, just move! We’re mages. Get into the hall!"
Bethany grabbed Merrill and moved. She knew better than to argue if Cormac was shouting in a room full of demons. Cormac and Artemis followed close behind them, but Anders didn’t, finally losing the argument with Justice. Losing it badly, at a glance. The blue glow around him was enough to light the room, and flashes of armour appeared in the Fade-light, followed shortly by actual armour, as stone appeared around him and settled into place.
Cormac froze in the doorway. "Anders, no, what are you doing!? Move!"
Justice leaned to the side and pulled an enormous sword out of a long-dead corpse, as it started to stir, and turning, he removed the head from the abomination behind him, as it began to change forms.
The rage demons moved steadily toward the hall, and Cormac had no choice but to bring up the barrier. Merrill’s vines raced across the floor, on the other side of it, dragging down anything they touched, and Bethany slapped hex after hex into the crowd. Cormac went after Xebenkeck, fists clenching at his sides, as he watched Anders — Justice — wield that huge sword as if he were born with it in his hand.
Artemis swore under his breath, trying to knock the abominations and demons away from Justice as best he could without hitting Justice. Eventually he was forced to focus on the demons cluttering the doorway, and he moved in front of the other mages so he could throw his spells with impunity.
"Well, isn’t this a lovely disaster?" Bethany muttered between hexes, trying to catch a glimpse of Justice — Anders — whoever that was — between the smouldering and twisting bodies Artie was smacking into every flat surface.
Anders wanted to run to the others, to keep them safe, and he tried to tug Justice’s attention in that direction, but Justice was on Xebenkeck with a burning focus, arms and feet moving faster than Anders could follow.
"You know," Cormac muttered, between walls of ice and crushing Xebenkeck, "I’m really kind of turned on, right now. You’ve definitely got a point about the joys of swording…"
"Oh, well, you know, Carver—" Merrill started, but Cormac cut her off.
"Don’t tell me. That’s my baby brother. Just … no." Cormac slammed his fist against the barrier, eyes still on Justice and the demon. At least Xebenkeck seemed to be weakening, and the horde of horrors had nearly stopped squirming. "Anders, what the fuck are you doing?" he whispered.
For a moment, it was almost quiet, disrupted only by the sound of Justice’s sword slamming into things, as the demon tried to dodge both that and the hail of spells suddenly focused on it. Then Xebenkeck’s hands twisted in a familiar summoning gesture. Merrill tried to stop it, vines shooting up to wrap around the demon’s wrists, but there were already more creatures clawing their way up through the floor. One, more corpse than monster, dragged a massive sword along with it. The revenant diverted the next swing of Justice’s sword, and Justice leaped to the side, the creature’s sword chipping off a corner of rock shielding Justice’s ribs.
Xebenkeck grinned, barraging Justice with ice and fire as the revenant took most of his attention. Anders wanted to shake apart when a wall of fire washed over him, but Justice was resolute, focused on the burn of the revenant’s red eyes.
Rage demons and abominations cluttered the doorway again, blocking the other mages from sight. Artemis grit his teeth in frustration, shoving the creatures all back and away from the door. "Can anyone see Anders?" he asked, trying to keep a line of sight clear.
"Let them come, Artie," Cormac said, squeezing his brother’s shoulder. "He’s alone out there. Let them come to us." Without that line of sight, he couldn’t hit Xebenkeck, but he could trust Justice to keep Anders alive, if he switched tactics. At least, that was what he told himself as he filled half the room and the entry to the hall with a blizzard.