[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 214
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Meredith♀, Orsino ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Politics, genuinely unpleasant sentiments
Notes: Orsino starts some shit. Meredith objects. The Hawkes have never been very good at shutting up.
Cormac just wanted to have a word with the herbalist. That was it. Nothing exciting. And Anton was on his way down to the Gallows to sneak into Cullen’s office in new and interesting ways. As they passed the stairs to the Keep, the First Enchanter could be heard shouting his displeasure with the state of the world, to the masses.
Cormac cocked his head in that direction, raising his eyebrow, and Anton nodded. It wasn’t like they were doing anything particularly critical. They hung back, but stayed within listening distance.
"I know you fear us!" Orsino called across the crowd. "And Knight-Commander Meredith uses that fear to take control of your city!"
Anton spotted Artemis lingering near the edge of the crowd and elbowed Cormac, gesturing with his eyes, before heading that way and letting Cormac follow. "Fancy running into you here," he whispered to Artie. "Has he been at it long?"
"She opposes every effort to replace Viscount Dumar, and you have seen the chaos of her reign! Will you allow it?" Orsino challenged the crowd.
"She also appointed Viscount Dumar, if I’m not mistaken," Cormac pointed out, quietly, stepping into place a bit to Artie’s side. "Artie. Fenris. Good to see you both. Nice day for a rally."
"Quite lovely," Artie agreed without taking his eyes off Orsino. "And he’s only been at it a few minutes. It started as a heated discussion with another mage, but he turned it into a speech when he noticed the crowd gathering. I can’t say I’ve ever seen him this worked up. And I was him that one time, in the Fade. Fond memories."
The crowd started to move, bodies shuffling back and against them, making way for a familiar figure in platemail. "Return to your homes!" Meredith’s voice rang out in the square, carrying more than Orsino’s had. "This farce is over."
The same people who had been cheering Orsino on a moment before started to back away.
"I strongly disagree. This farce has just begun." Fenris scoffed. "I wonder if I could send a runner for roasted chestnuts, and have them return before this is all over."
"If this ends in the ‘Staff of Violation’ being used inappropriately," Anton said to his brothers, "I’m leaving Kirkwall and sailing for Antiva."
"Wait!" Orsino called out to the crowd. "Perhaps there are some who might disagree with you, Knight-Commander." He looked right at Anton as he spoke. Heads turned curiously, stares seeking out the Champion.
"Aw, shit," Anton said through his teeth.
"I hear Antiva is lovely this time of year," Artemis cheerfully told Anton. He patted his brother’s shoulder and stepped slightly to the side to keep the focus off of him. "Whatever you do, don’t turn your back on his staff."
"Oh, this should be entertaining," Fenris muttered.
"Do not hide behind the Champion." Meredith swaggered in, backed by several templars. None of them wore the Knight-Captain’s notable armour, to Anton’s relief. "He has no role in this."
"You know," Anton said, backing up, slowly. "I’m really not all that political. There are excellent points as to the necessity of the Templar Order. Let that never come into doubt. But, it also seems like overkill to punish every mage for the bad acts of a dangerous few. There has to be some middle ground. Some compromise. We have to remember that on all sides of this, at the end of the day, we’re all just people."
"Bullshit," Fenris declared. "Would you say that to the people of Tevinter? What compromise can you propose to slaves?"
"I’m sure there’s no reason for this to come to a public argument," Anton went on. "We’re all adults, here. Surely we can talk this out."
"It’s not an argument," Meredith insisted. "This is treason."
"I think the Champion’s views would be appreciated, or do you fear what he has to say?" Orsino’s chin tipped up, as he walked down the stairs to face Meredith, still a few steps up, to meet her eyes.
"I fear nothing," Meredith scoffed. "My only interest here is keeping order and protecting the innocent."
"Tell that to Karl Thekla," Fenris barked, from the back of the crowd. He remembered the name from an article he’d seen in the Gazette, about the variety of unspeakable acts from inside the Gallows that had become semi-public knowledge. He’d been there for some of those events, and had no reason to doubt most of the rest.
"What happened to Enchanter Thekla was regrettable, and the responsible parties within the Order have been dealt with. Still, the evidence remains that he met his end at the hands of the Mage Rebellion." Meredith smiled into the crowd, like an indulgent judge.
"It wasn’t the ‘Mage Rebellion’ that made him Tranquil," Fenris scoffed, "or that treat the Tranquil as little more than slaves."
Artemis turned wide eyes and raised eyebrows his way, making sure he wasn’t standing next to Anders instead. There was a time when he never thought he’d hear such words from Fenris.
Meredith’s face twisted in a snarl, and Anton stepped in before this could disintegrate further. "Your measures… have become more extreme over the last few years," he said neutrally.
"And you could do better?" Meredith replied, looking down her nose at him. She stepped towards him. "How well did you guard your own mother? Did she not die at a blood mage’s hands?"
"That is uncalled for," Artemis said, stiffening.
"A murderer is a murderer, regardless of his career choices," Cormac pointed out. "My father, as it turned out, was killed by the Wardens. Does it put me off Wardens, Knight-Commander? I’d think even you would know the answer to that. Do I point to the entire Templar Order as heartless murderers? … Well, not usually, but there are moments. Overall, no, I do not. My own brother is a templar, as was my father’s best friend. But, the extremes to which you have driven the Order are frankly unspeakable. There is no need to treat innocent people in a manner suited to criminals."
"But, there is your first mistake, Serah Hawke." Meredith shook her head, with a sad smile. "They aren’t innocent people. They’re mages. They’re not really people at all, once the magic gets into them. And what follows magic, but demons? It is only by containing this unnatural power that we can hope to enable them to eke out some bare attempt at life, before the demons within can no longer be contained. Tranquility is a grace, and I wish we were able to grant all those so tormented by magic that sort of peace of mind, but it is quite costly to all involved, and only the most troubled can be given that peace."
"Don’t you think if that were the case, more mages would be clamouring for it?" Cormac asked. "Come, First Enchanter, tell us what you’re trying to accomplish, here."
"The people of this city need to know what is really happening!" Orsino insisted, anger bright in his eyes.
"And then what?" Meredith’s condescension persisted amazingly well, and Fenris really had to credit her that much. "They tear down the Gallows with pitchforks and torches? That would be better?"
"It cannot be worse," Orsino deadpanned. "Your refusal to listen to reason leaves me no choice."
Meredith rounded on Orsino again. "What I refuse to listen to are excuses!" she said. "Perhaps you are ill-fit to your position if you cannot understand this." As her voice trailed off, her lips curled in a predatory smile.
"Ah," Anton said, rolling his eyes. "So we’ve moved onto threats. Do you really think that’s going to help matters?"
"And what should I do instead?" Meredith snapped. "Allow this to continue?" She gestured at the square, at the crowd that had backed away but was still watching.
"What do you mean by ‘this’, exactly?" Anton said, determined to keep his voice civil. The last thing he needed to do was put his husband and his brother in an awkward situation by butting heads with Meredith.
"Are your arguments so flimsy," Fenris said, "that a public discussion threatens you?"
Meredith grit her teeth, eyes narrowing on Fenris, who lifted his chin in response. She stared at him as though committing his face to memory, though he knew his tattoos made him… memorable enough.
"Cold corpses speak louder than any ‘discussion’," she said.
"Which corpses?" Artemis said. "There are quite a few. On both sides."
"There are no sides," Meredith corrected. "For there to be sides, this would need to be a disagreement between equals. There are only beasts and those with the power to rein them in. As long as there are wild maleficars wreaking murder and magical havoc in the streets, Kirkwall needs its templars more than it needs a new ruler."
"You say this as if these are mutually exclusive concepts, a viscount and templars. But, perhaps, to you they would be, since Dumar left no heirs." Fenris had been listening, when Cormac spoke, earlier. Assuming he was correct, Meredith wouldn’t appoint a new viscount, or allow one, until she was certain it was someone she could control. "Kirkwall has a long history of alternating states of mayhem and tyranny, does it not? And you would prefer to keep it that way — to maintain your tyranny as the golden alternative to the mayhem that might possibly take hold without it."
"Better a merciless order than no order at all."
"And when will that end? When will you stop seeing evil in every corner?" Orsino demanded, disgusted.
"When it’s no longer there." Meredith spoke as if the answer were obvious, condescension clear in her eyes.
"And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us back to the Champion of Kirkwall, a force of honest good and right, who drove the very Qunari from our doorsteps!" Cormac stepped to the side and gestured at Anton. "Did I mention his role in bringing down the hideously dangerous maleficar who murdered our mother? Or that he helped me slay a dragon terrorising the miners in the mountains? I have seen him raise his blade to both demons and darkspawn! It matters not what form evil takes. Kirkwall can handle it. For magical malfeasance, we have the templars. For mundane matters, we have the guard. And for everything else, we have the Champion!"
The crowd applauded, stepping back around Anton, as they cheered for him. This was the man who had ended the Qunari threat. Whatever politics went on, the Champion would protect them.