[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 217
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Cullen ♂, Fenris ♂, Varric ♂, Natia Brosca ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V1 D0)
Warnings: Brotherly crotch-kicking
Notes: Cullen gets sent along on an expedition to the Bone Pit, in search of the demons and blood mages Meredith expects are responsible for the constant troubles in the area. Fortunately, the Hawkes already have business up there.
Cormac opened the door right into Varric. "I was just going to come looking for you!" He looked over his shoulder. "Bethy! Varric’s here! Are you good to go?"
The dwarf next to Varric looked up at Cormac and then back at Varric. "You didn’t tell me your friend was human. When you said he was a miner—"
"I didn’t say he was a miner. I said he owned a mine." Varric shrugged. "Either way, Cormac’s good people. Cormac, this is Natia Brosca, my expert on the Deep Roads. She spent a lot of time down there. Natia, Cormac Hawke, part owner of the Bone Pit, which is a shitty name for a mine, and you should rename it, like I’ve been telling you for years."
"Tradition and Hubert," Cormac replied, leaning in the doorway, while he waited for his sister.
Instead of Bethany, Cullen came down the stairs, in full plate.
"Late for work?" Cormac joked.
"No, I’m going with you," Cullen sighed. "The Knight-Commander is convinced there are apostates practising blood magic up there, and that’s why you’re having problems."
"There were definitely blood mages. The problem is they were Tevinter and it was more than five hundred years ago. There’s an actual pit of bones from the sacrifices." A toneless laugh slipped out of Cormac. "And I just took care of a nasty bout of undead, the other year, so it’s probably time for something else. I just want to get up there before it happens."
"He does this," Varric pointed out. "He’s fucking neurotic about that mine. Sneaks up there at least once a month to make sure there aren’t arcane horrors or giant spiders."
"Or dragons," Cormac pointed out, "like that one time."
"Dragons?" Cullen asked, squinting uncertainly at Cormac. "You had dragons?"
"We had dragons. Anton was so pissed at me for not bringing him back a drake. Of course, we lived in Lowtown, and there was no way Gamlen was going to let a drake in the house. The dog was bad enough." Cormac spotted Bethany over Cullen’s shoulder. "How is my brother, anyway? I haven’t seen him in a week."
"He’s warm, when I get out of bed. I haven’t really seen him, either, but that pile of sovereigns on the nightstand keeps getting bigger, so I know he’s getting up at some point," Cullen joked.
"The Antivan rug merchants are in," Bethany pointed out. "And, yes, Cullen, I’m coming along on this venture, because someone has to keep an eye on you. I’m sure Anton would never forgive us if we brought you back as slightly-used dragon-snacks."
"There probably aren’t dragons," Cormac assured him. "We’re really just going to take a look at the entrance to the Deep Roads up there. Less an ‘entrance’. More a hole in the wall."
"A hole in the wall?" Cullen asked, brow quirking. Meredith’s concerns aside, he was curious about the Deep Roads, though not so curious that he wanted to deal with dragons or undead or giant spiders (ugh!) just to look at them.
"That’s what happens when you mine on the surface without paying attention to what’s beneath you," Natia said, still sizing Cormac up.
"Blame the Orlesian," Varric told her out of the corner of his mouth as he ushered her back out the door.
They stopped by the Fartemis Estate on the way. Fenris saw the apple tarts in Bethany’s hands and heard the words ‘Bone Pit’. He snatched up his sword and shoved a pastry into his mouth before Cormac had finished talking.
Artemis appeared just long enough to steal a tart for himself.
"Are you coming too?" Cullen asked, eyeing Artemis’s bare feet.
"Fuck no," Artie said with a cheerful smile and a spray of crumbs. "But you kids have fun."
"Artie?" Cormac grinned wickedly. "You just blew crumbs down your shirt." He reached out and pinched the tip of his brother’s nose, before backing up in a hurry, before Artie could tag him for pointing it out.
Artemis whined around his next bite of tart, the kick he aimed at Cormac’s crotch bouncing off his shield.
"And this is why casual magic is so important, in daily life," Cormac told Cullen, one hand clanking against a platemail shoulder. "I prefer it when my brothers can’t kick me in the balls for stating the obvious."
"I can see the appeal. Although I’m not sure I would have become quite so polite without my sisters’ feet in my delicates." Cullen eyed Artemis one more time, as they walked away. "There’s something to be said for the role of pain in suppressing dreadful behaviour, but I’ve noticed it didn’t seem to help Anton much."
"You can’t beat anything out of Anton." Cormac shook his head. "You have to bribe him. I’m sure you’ve noticed that, by now."
Cullen blushed and looked away, as they made their way down from Hightown.
"Paying louts to shut up gets dangerous. There are scholars, back in Orzammar, who founded entire careers on being paid to shut up," Natia pointed out. "So, the Deep Roads, huh?"
"The Deep Roads. Which is why we don’t have the healer with us. He objects to being underground, but he objects even more to the light of fungus lamps and darkspawn in the walls." Cormac laughed, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes.
"Darkspawn!?" Cullen looked much less impressed with this entire idea. "I should tell the Knight-Commander it’s the darkspawn. Tainted lands, blight wolves, unspeakable horrors of the Blight rising out of the earth."
"Do you think that would work?" Cormac asked, honestly curious. He’d never really gotten a grip on how Meredith thought about things.
"Probably not," Cullen admitted. "She’d decide the darkspawn were templar problems, because they were created by the magisters. Magic made it, it’s evil, it must be our duty to clean it up. Except, you know, that’s what the Grey Wardens are for."
"And the Legion of the Dead," Natia noted, squinting up at Cullen. "So, you’re a templar? I heard they feed you guys lyrium. How’s that working out for you?"
"Well, I’m not dead, so there’s that," Cullen answered with brittle smile.
Natia chuffed. "Not dead because of the lyrium or despite it, templar?"
Cullen wished he had an answer for that. Instead he glanced at Fenris, at the pale blue lines etched into his skin, and the elf gave him a sympathetic look, cheeks bulging around another tart.
"And who are you?" Fenris asked, only just noticing Natia around Cullen’s platemail. He offered her a tart by way of introduction.
"Natia Brosca," she said, nudging a couple of tarts aside in the box until she found one she liked. "And thanks. These aren’t bad."
Varric chuckled. "‘Not bad’ is the highest praise I’ve heard you give surface food," he said.
"I like simple things! Mushrooms! Fried nug! The occasional roasted deepstalker!" Natia shrugged expressively. "The food up here is just weird!"
"You should see the things the Hawkes have tried to feed me," Fenris teased. "They’re barbarians, from a land of barbarian tribes, to the south."
"Hey, I’m from Ferelden, too!" Cullen protested. "It’s not all barbarians!"
Varric pointed at Cullen. "And that’s what the important barbarians look like," he told Natia. "Note the lack of goat stench."
Fenris choked on a tart and Cormac slapped him on the back.
"Breathe. My brother will have my balls on a plate, if I let you choke to death before we even get where we’re going."
"You came from Orzammar?" Bethany asked, finally. "I thought dwarves who came to the surface couldn’t go home."
"They can’t. Doesn’t really matter. My sister’s the king’s concubine, so she’s taken care of, and I’m up here, where I can take care of myself." Natia looked back at Bethany and tapped a mark on her cheek. "It’s not like I could do that, back home."
Bethany looked at Fenris, curiously, aware of the presence of two people in the party, now, who seemed to have an aversion to their extremely obvious tattoos.
"I have known another dwarf with such… tattoos. I am led to understand they are, like mine, a symbol of an irreparable lack of status," Fenris explained, around a mouthful of tart, the crumbs falling from behind his hand.
"Like yours, huh?" Natia asked, eyeing Fenris’s markings more openly now. "There’s a story there, I take it?"
"I suppose there is," Fenris replied. He considered the last tart in the box and if he wanted to eat it now. "Though I’m missing a few… chapters. I would require more tarts and copious amounts of wine to tell it, however."
"We can talk about drinks when we’re done with this mine business," Varric said. "What do you say? Round off the day with a drink and a hot meal after?"
Fenris hummed his assent around the last tart, while Cullen waffled. "Depends on when we get back, I suppose," he said, picturing the paperwork that would be piling up in his absence. And Meredith would be breathing fire worse than any ‘drake’ — though thank the Maker the Hawkes had already cleared those out.
"I heard yes," Varric replied, patting his plated shoulder.