[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 199
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Merrill ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S1 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, demons, extremely literal swording, Cormac’s hair, ass-kissing
Notes: A variety of strange revelations, and a few statements of the obvious.
"I hate it when things are possessed," Bethany muttered, most of her favourite spells rendered useless by the demons already in play. She, too, resorted to other means, and after a few moments, an abomination exploded. A few moments more, and three others went.
Merrill looked frustrated, but kept the vines coming, and they grabbed at everything in reach, dragging it to one side. "Nothing has any blood, in there!" she complained, switching tactics, as soon as she could see Anders again. A boulder slammed down into the frozen creatures trapped in the vines, and then it was gone, leaving several of them merely smears on the floor.
And then Cormac realised he’d completely lost track of Xebenkeck. He crushed the revenant — or tried to, anyway — which seemed, at least, to slow its strikes, and Justice’s greatsword bit chunks out of its bones.
"Where’s the demon?" Bethany asked, the doorway blocking the corners of the room from sight.
The revenant was fast losing ground, and then it was losing a limb under Justice’s onslaught. Its shield-arm dropped to the floor, metal and bone loud against stone, even as it continued swinging its massive sword. Justice hacked away at the newly-vulnerable, rotted flesh, until a chunk of hip broke off, sending the revenant buckling to its knee. Just as Justice was about to hack off its head, cold washed over him, layering his skin with ice and holding him fast.
"There!" said Artemis, hitting Xebenkeck with a flash of lightning and cutting him off mid-spell. On the ground, the revenant tried to hoist its sword again, but vines sprang up out of the ground to pin it down.
Cormac finished off the revenant, as Justice shook off the ice, leaving nothing but a pile of bone shards that failed to reassemble themselves. For a moment, Justice staggered, confused, as the ice fell away, and Xebenkeck looked like he might be winding up to bring in more reserves. Merrill and Cormac struck at the same time, and Bethany layered hex after hex onto the demon as it was crushed and dragged to its knees.
"Hello, brother," Xebenkeck purred, as Justice turned around. "When you spend as much time in this world as I have, do you think you’ll be so pure? Look at the way you already rage…"
The greatsword glowed with a golden light as Justice raised it up, two-handed.
"Why fight it?" Xebenkeck asked, and the sword plunged straight down through his chest, his body vanishing in a flash of fire that scorched the ground around it.
Justice either had no answer or had no need to answer a dead demon — or at least a banished one. Cormac had never been entirely clear on what became of demons struck down outside the Fade. He only remembered to dispel the barrier when he banged his nose on it, shoving past Artemis to get to Anders.
Justice looked around him, sword still in hand, and waited to make sure the battle was over. Only then did the blue light in Anders’s eyes, along his skin, recede, and Anders found himself back in control, almost overbalancing from the sword’s weight. "Wow, that’s… heavier than it looks," he said, resting the tip on the floor. "How the Blight does Fenris lift one of these with those scrawny little elf-arms of his?"
"By the sheer might of his broodiness," Artemis replied, following his brother into the room and looking around at the carnage.
Anders had a response to that. The words were on his tongue, but he choked on them when he finally looked up at Cormac. "What in the…" He threw his free hand over his mouth to muffle the snorting laugh that tried to break free. No. He shouldn’t laugh at this. That would be rude.
Artemis and Bethany had no such reservations, and they broke into matching snickers at the look on Anders’s face.
"Yeah, hah, broody elf is broody," Cormac muttered, flippantly, studying Anders. "You’re all right? When you — When he—" He pointed at the sword. "I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but that is a sword, and I just watched you — both of you — demolish demons with it, like you’d been doing the like forever."
"Justice was a swordsman, when we met." Anders looked at anything but Cormac.
"I’ve seen the two of you unleash havoc with your staff, but Andraste’s glorious heaving bosom, I never expected … that!" Cormac looked thoroughly awed.
Anders finally looked back, sure he could make the best of this, but his mouth got away from him. "And I never expected that!" He gestured at Cormac’s head.
"What—" Cormac’s eyes widened as he realised what must have happened, and his hands rose to his hair, still damp, but rising awkwardly from his head in tight curls. "… Screw you," he breathed, turning away, already casting as he walked back toward the hall. "You, your book, and all the demons I went through so you could have it."
He tried to bat Artemis out of his way, but his brother didn’t actually move. Force mage. Right. "This is why not," he hissed, squeezing between Artie and the wall, to get past him.
Artie’s laughter softened to a guilty smile at the look on his brother’s face. "Cormac," he said, wrapping his arms around Cormac as he squeezed past, "hey." If Cormac couldn’t shove him, he also couldn’t pull Artemis along, and Artie held him rooted there and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
"I never said it wasn’t hot!" Anders gibbered, trailing after Cormac. "Just unexpected!"
Bethany and Merrill exchanged glances. "You know," said Merrill, "Pol used to try to get his hair to poof up like that, but he could never quite get it to work. Mahariel tried to tell him he didn’t quite have the ears for it anyway. I don’t know. I thought it was cute."
Bethany smirked. "I don’t think Cormac quite has the ears for it either," she said.
"Next damned demon’s going to promise me hair that does what I want it to," Cormac muttered, resting his head on Artie’s shoulder, "and it’s going to be damnably hard to turn it down." He still lit Bethany’s toes on fire, like he used to do when they were young, and she’d start with him.
She smirked as she put out the flames.
"I’m not Carver. You’re not going to make me cry." Cormac grumbled.
"I think that’s a challenge!" Bethany clapped her hands. "What do you think, Merrill? Was that a challenge?"
"Oh, I’m not sure. I mean, is it really wise? It’s definitely not kind."
"He just lit my toes on fire."
"Oh, yes." Merrill nodded. "Crying is probably acceptable, then."
Anders tried to get around Artie, to get to Cormac, but Artie was the proverbial immovable object, and all of Anders’s fluttering had little effect. He sighed and handed Bethany the sword. "Please don’t make him cry. Today has been long enough."
"Yes, please no crying," Artie sighed. "I’d rather not have his tears and snot weighing down my tunic." He pressed another kiss to Cormac’s cheek and handed him off to Anders. "Here. Anders, tell my brother you find him no less doable with this hair."
"Eww," Bethany whined. Artemis stuck his tongue out at her.
Anders held Cormac’s shoulders and offered him a wry look. "I find you no less doable with this hair?" he said.
"You’ll be lucky if I don’t let the dog into your room while you’re sleeping," Cormac grumbled, casting the last spell to straighten his hair. It hung lank around his shoulders, the two plaits he’d tied it back with frizzy and lopsided, now.
Blinking, Anders looked around Cormac at Artemis. "Is that what Isabela meant by ‘Rivaini hair’?"
"Well, our dad’s was the same way," Bethany pointed out. "And Cormac really does look so much like dad."
Merrill leaned in and patted Cormac’s shoulder. "Swording," she whispered, with a nod. "Just think of his swording."
Still close enough to hear that, Artemis cackled, throwing a hand over his eyes.
Anders cleared his throat. "Justice’s swording," he said. "Though we are both talented with two-handed weaponry." He offered Cormac a sly smile.
"Speaking of," Bethany murmured distractedly, hefting the sword Anders had handed to her. "This sword is clearly Tevinter design."
"More than that," Artemis said, dropping his hand from his face and taking a step closer. "Is that…? It looks like a Blade of Mercy." He reached for the sword, and Bethany shrugged, letting him take it. The sword was old, a bit banged up but still serviceable. More than serviceable, judging by the battle they’d just finished. "Huh."
Anders twitched and his fingers clutched at Cormac’s shoulders. "That’s…" His arms slid around Cormac as he leaned over the now-less-fluffy mage’s shoulder for a closer look. "It needs to be cleaned, but you might be right. Obviously ‘a’, and not ‘the’." He paused. "I hope. But, I wonder if it’s the real thing or a forgery. I guess it doesn’t really matter. Stabs just as well, either way."
"A Blade of…" Cormac twisted around in Anders’s arms. "Okay, my Tevinter history’s not the best, but ‘Blade of Mercy’ as in ‘Sword of Mercy’ as in that thing that’s engraved on my baby brother’s armour? I don’t understand."
Merrill raised her hand. "I don’t either!"
"It’s one of those ugly stories the templars use to justify their existence," Anders explained, shifting so his arms crossed in front of Cormac’s neck, and he could rest his chin on top of Cormac’s head. "It’s said that when Andraste burned, she burned dead, because Archon Hessarian had mercy and struck her down with his sword. According to legend, because the Maker told him to do it. So, yes, the fire and the blade are a direct reference to that."
Cormac could hear Anders’s teeth grinding, as the vibrations crawled through the top of his skull.
"It’s their last mercy to a mage who’s gone too far."
"A mage who’s gone too far. Just like divine Andraste." Cormac laughed. "Idiots."
Artemis scratched his chin, forcing himself to focus on the form of the blade, on the pattern along its hilt, instead of the grime and blood still encrusting it. He would need to clean it, yes. Thoroughly. "Fenris has mentioned these before," he said. "Something about… how these replicas of the Sword of Mercy are given out as… well, as awards of distinction in Tevinter. I think. I might have been focused on another sword at the time." Bethany snorted, and Artemis cleared his throat. "Anyway. Er. Anders, Justice. Do either of you have any desire to hold onto this sword?"
Anders shrugged. "Not really. I’m not a… sworder, and Justice just grabbed what was available. Why? You look like you’re plotting something."
"Well," Artie said, lips quirking in a half-smile. "I am in the market for a wedding present for a particular elf…"
"A sword for stabbing mages! I think it’s an excellent choice. Of course it’s a Tevinter magister’s sword for stabbing mages, so there’s some utterly genius irony in there, somewhere." And then Cormac paused and realised he was serious. "Actually, that is a really good idea. Reminds me, I’ve got something I want to ask you about, when we get back to the house. Make sure I’m not about to put my foot in something awful."
"Was the dog in the room?" Bethany drawled. "Congratulations. You’re about to put your foot in something awful."
Anders pressed his cheek to the side of Cormac’s face. "Please don’t let the dog in my room. I’ll let you do whatever you want with my… greatsword, all night long, but just don’t set the fart demon on me. The cats will disapprove. Violently, and much like Anton disapproves. You don’t really want to do that to me, do you?"
"You’re lucky you’re cute," Cormac grumbled, only half as annoyed as he’d been, and reached up to twist Anders’s nose a bit. "You’re cute and Artie would feel compelled to clean it all. Which … honestly, that would serve you both right, but he’s cute, too, and if I set the dog on you, he’s going to make those heartbreaking sad faces at me for weeks."
"Who’s going to make sad faces?" Merrill asked, and only then did the others realise she’d slipped away to grab up the book from where Cormac had dropped it in the hall. "Oof. This thing is heavier than it looks."
Bethany frowned down at the book in her hands. "Merrill," she said slowly, warily, "are you sure you should be—?"
"Don’t worry, I made sure there were no more traps on it. Or spells. Or… invisible spikes or something. It’s just a book, now."
Artemis still took a step to the side, putting staff and sword between him and the book.
"Right," said Anders, stretching out a hand and waggling his fingers. "Mission accomplished, then. Thank you, Merrill." She handed him the book, and Anders curled back around Cormac, the book tucked under one hand.
"Anders gets a book," Bethany said, "Artie gets a sword, and all of us got to enjoy Cormac’s hair. Certainly a fulfilling day."
"There has been neither ‘full’ nor ‘filling’ in my day," Cormac complained, ducking out of Anders’s grip, to turn and catch him with a shoulder just above the hips. He stood and heaved the healer over his shoulder. "And I intend to go home and solve that problem, now. Come along, you great mountain savage."
"I’m not sure I need to be told to come along, if you’re carrying me off," Anders pointed out, pulling the book close to his chest, not to drop it. "And I thank you for that. I have an incredible view of your ass, and I’m going to appreciate that all the way back out of here."
Cormac staggered a few steps down the hall, before leaning on the wall and settling Anders more firmly on his shoulder. "Artie’s holy balls," he swore. "Have you been putting on more weight? Are you actually heavier than you were, this morning?"
"It’s the book," Anders assured him, gently nibbling on one butt cheek.
"Am I going to have to watch this all the way back to the house?" Bethany complained.
Cormac failed to look over his shoulder because of the mage-ass in his way. "Not if you walk in front of me!"
"I still don’t know how I feel about you swearing by my balls," Artie muttered, "neither of which is holy in either sense of the word."