[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 244
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Merrill ♀
Rating: M (L2 N0 S0 V3 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, demons, blood magic
Notes: Things do not go as well as Anton hoped.
Merrill grinned, patting Anton’s arm as she passed. "Nyssa works the stall just over here," she said. "She’s usually here this time of day, but…" It looked empty. Merrill stepped closer, peering into the stall and finding Nyssa crouching on the ground, tying her shoes. "Ah, there you are! Good morning, Nyssa. It is still morning, isn’t it?"
"Merrill? What are you doing here?" Nyssa asked, as she rose.
"We’re here about Huon, Nyssa. This is my friend Anton, and he’d like to help the two of you get out of Kirkwall." Merrill beamed, patting Anton’s elbow.
"Oh." Nyssa stepped out around the edge of the stall. "When the templars came, I told them the truth — that I hadn’t seen Huon in ten years. But, after they left, he came to me. He wanted me to hide him." She looked nervous, glancing around, before she sat on the edge of the counter. "I used to dream of him returning. But, not like this. He’s changed, and I don’t know him any more. I sent him away."
"How has he changed?" Anders asked, leaning over Anton’s shoulder. "Excuse me. Healer, here. Anders. I don’t think we’ve met."
"I’ve heard of you," Nyssa admitted, with a nod. "But, he was obsessed with showing everyone ‘true elven power’. He frightened me."
"Did you see him use any magic, while he was showing off?" Anders asked. "Anything in particular stand out?"
"I… I don’t know. I don’t think he used magic on me." Nyssa looked equal parts concerned and afraid.
"So, until he showed up, you hadn’t seen him since he left you?" Anton asked, picking back up when Anders ran out of questions.
"He didn’t leave me. He was taken," Nyssa corrected, firmly.
"Really, Anton, you know better." Anders nudged him.
"When the templars heard he was a mage, they chained him and dragged him from the alienage. In front of everyone." Nyssa paused, struggling for the next words, and Anders tipped his head down, trying to catch his breath.
"Anders, are you all right?" Merrill whispered, resting a hand on his arm.
"It’s how they took me. My mother—" Anders shook his head, still looking pale, and a trace of blue flickered across his face. "Later. Put a lot of wine into me, and I’ll tell you later."
Merrill’s hand stayed on his arm even when she turned back to Nyssa. "He didn’t hurt you, did he?" she asked gently. "I know you said he didn’t use magic, but…" But Nyssa still looked terrified, hands shaking as she clasped them.
She shook her head. "Only broke my heart," she said in a voice that was barely there.
"Do you know where Huon went after you sent him away?" Anton asked. He had a feeling he was going to be getting drunk tonight too.
Nyssa shook her head again, brows knit. "I don’t know," she said. "He… disappeared." She swallowed, lips trembling as she continued, "B-but Huon said he would return to take me away from here forever. I don’t know what he means, and I am afraid of him, messere."
It was like those urchins all over again. "Nyssa, why don’t I stay with you?" Merrill offered. "Do you know when he’s coming back?"
"He said he would come to the alienage at nightfall," Nyssa said, wringing her hands and nodding to herself. "Would you stay? I would be so grateful."
"Of course! I… oh. I just need to go back to the market and fetch some turnips, but that shouldn’t take long."
Anders nudged Anton. "Do you think someone should tell Carver to put some pants on?"
"Carver doesn’t need pants. I’m not going back in there." Anton shook his head and glanced around the market. "You’re a dressmaker?" he asked Nyssa. "Talk dresses with me. I have a sister, and her nameday is coming up."
"What sorts of things does she like?" Nyssa asked, glad for the new subject.
"Nevarran cuts. She prefers blue and rose, with metallic accents — blue like my eyes. It’s a good colour on her." Anton rattled on about Bethany’s taste in dresses for a few moments, and Nyssa pointed out some fabrics and sketched designs on the backs of old receipts.
After a time, Nyssa asked. "Are you going to arrest my husband? I think he needs help. Maybe the Circle will be able to heal what troubles him."
Anders looked pointedly away from the conversation, and Anton considered his reply, carefully. "I suspect the Circle is what troubles him. If help is what he needs, he won’t find it in Kirkwall."
"It’s what happens when the templars take us from our lives. It’s different for the kids, but for us…" Anders shook his head. "I was only twelve, but it was already too late."
"You were in the Circle?" Nyssa asked. "Here?"
"No, no. In Ferelden." Anders smiled, sadly. "Before I became a Grey Warden, Andraste’s blessings on Commander Solona Amell."
"What does a Warden have to do with this kind of thing? It seems like a Circle problem." Nyssa studied Anders, taking in the coat and the stains on his fingers.
"You’ve heard of me," Anders reminded her. "I think I’m the only healer in this city, sometimes. Definitely the only one in the parts that need one. I’m here to make sure no one gets hurt if it’s not absolutely necessary, which I really hope it’s not."
Anton nodded. "A precaution," he said. "I’m sure it will be fine." That wasn’t the worst lie he’d told this week.
Nyssa fidgeted with her wares and made small-talk with Anton while they waited for Merrill. Anders wandered over to the vhenadahl, stepping over its roots.
Then Nyssa stilled, fabric swatches dropping from her fingers as a breath caught in her throat. "Huon," she breathed, and Anton looked up sharply, following her line of sight. An elf in a ratty tunic stood in the shadows, blank stare fixed on Nyssa.
"Shit," Anton muttered, one hand twitching for a dagger just in case. So much for ‘nightfall’. "Is that him?" he asked, looking back at Nyssa’s wares and pretending they were still talking about dresses. "Nyssa?"
But she didn’t reply, strangled noises catching in her throat as she stepped out of the stall and towards her husband. He spread his hands and something swirled around him.
"Hush, love. Don’t be afraid." Huon’s voice was so quiet that only Merrill heard it, coming down the stairs much closer to him, as he put his arms around Nyssa. "Your blood will bring new life to our people."
Merrill’s turnips bounced off Huon’s head, as she raced toward the couple, too late to stop the knife from sliding under Nyssa’s ribs.
"She was so beautiful," Huon said, softly, lowering Nyssa to the ground, her blood soaking into his clothes.
"She was your wife!" Anton sounded more anguished than angry, as he wondered if the safety of his siblings would ever come between him and Cullen. If that would end like this.
"Her sacrifice will lead me to my destiny." Huon’s face was expressionless — not cold, but as if he’d run out of emotions, and just couldn’t find them any more. "The humans keep us down, because they’re afraid of the magic within us." Rage finally gripped his face, but not his eyes. "Look at the magic Nyssa held within her. She was just afraid to use it."
The knife flashed, and blood splashed across his face. Behind him, wild-eyed, Anders started to cast, trying to close the wounds. If the blood travelled like that, Anders knew, Nyssa wasn’t dead. Huon had missed her heart.
As the shades rose up at Huon’s sides, Anton looked a lot more upset than he had any business being. "Twice in as many days. Maker, what is wrong with this city!?"
Nyssa’s life poured out of her faster than Anders could heal, and when shades closed in around him, he had no choice but to let her go. A sheet of stone shot up from the ground to block the claws angled for his chest, then another to block the claws swiping for his back. Justice clamoured in the back of his mind, reminding him how they’d handled this the day before, and Anders sucked in a breath, pulling Justice forward and letting him take the reins.
Seams of blue light parted Anders’s skin, and the shades turned, like flies to a flame. Lightning from Merrill’s fingertips lit up the shades closest to Anders, while Anton darted around them, blades finding openings as he made for Huon. The elf watched him approach with glassy eyes, but as Anton swiped at his stomach, the air rippled, and suddenly he was gone.
"What?" Then Anton lurched, the familiar creep of an ice spell starting at the small of his back and crawling outward, freezing him in place.
"Anton, no!" Merrill cried out, most of her attention still on the shades. He’d be fine. It was the first hit he’d taken, she told herself.
"Find him, Merrill," Anders called out, voice neither quite his nor Justice’s. "That’s blood magic!"
Merrill understood that was Anders’s way of telling her to use it to even out the fight. The difference, of course, being that she would never use someone else’s blood. That was disgusting and horrific, and here was a man who’d just killed his wife for the power of her blood. A subtle flick of her fingers, and she pierced the tips on a spike on her staff, squeezing out the blood as she gripped it. The ground beneath them knew where Huon was, and it spoke to her as vines sprung up and chased after him.
At almost the same time the vines darted into the alley after Huon, Carver threw open the door of Merrill’s house, wrapped in a sheet and clutching his sword. "Andraste’s dripping knickers, Anton! My girl goes out for turnips, and you turn it into a battle with a blood mage?" He watched the vines and caught a flicker out of the corner of his eye. Huon had jumped again. "Back!" he shouted, sweeping one arm toward Merrill and Anders, before he breathed deeply and brought his sword around toward Huon, the Silence following the blade.
Finally, an emotion registered on Huon’s face as that blade came for his neck: fear. Blood spattered Merrill’s sheets, and Huon’s head hit the ground before his body.
Beneath Justice’s blinding glow, Anders felt sick. Two mages. Two good mages reduced to this. Two families destroyed. The last shade went up in a blaze of fire he told himself was from Merrill.
"Maker, I hate that spell," Anton groaned, stretching and twisting and brushing off the last of the ice on his clothing. "At least when it’s used like that. On a hot summer day? It’s brilliant. In moderation."
Carver huffed, wiping the blood from his face with the corner of the sheet. "Yes, because you know Cormac and moderation," he muttered. Standing over what was left of Huon, he shook his head. "Shit."
"Shit," Anton agreed.
Finally Anders stopped glowing. He looked around the courtyard to find it deserted where it had been full of people before, doors and windows shut and likely barred.
"Carver." Merrill inched toward him, trying not to surprise her templar, before she wrapped her arms around him. "Carver, he killed Nyssa."
"What?" Carver blinked at the wreckage around them, blood and ashes, and spotted the other body. "Shit. I liked her. That what this is about?"
Anders nodded, sinking down to sit on his heels. "We came to talk to him, and he killed his wife and used her blood to raise demons. We just came to see if it was true, and… I guess he had to prove it."
Still not letting go of his sword, Carver pulled Merrill closer to him, resting his chin on top of her head. "Why?" Carver asked. "Why does this keep happening? You know my brothers. Do I need to be concerned? Is the Commander right? Is it inevitable?"
"No," Merrill sobbed against his chest, before catching her breath and trying again. "No."
"It’s not," Anders assured him. "This is what the tower does to people. The Circle exists to produce magical weapons, essentially, but the mages are those weapons, and we’re punished for being too powerful or not being powerful enough. Imagine that every time you had a friend, they were sent to another city. Imagine never being alone — really never. Imagine living in fear of accidentally pulling the wrong book off the shelf, because the tag on it is wrong, and you’ll be locked up and tortured if you’re caught with that volume in your hands. That is what makes this happen. Terror breeds revolution, and demons are the only thing the Order can’t control, inside the tower."
"Lunacy," Anton muttered, shaking his head and smoothing back his hair. "Absolute lunacy. I swear, if the third mage is like this, I’m selling everything I have and becoming a pirate."
"What about Cullen?" Anders asked, his smile thin.
"He’ll join me on the Seven Seas, plundering booty," he said, though the joke came out strained.
"I doubt he’d be too thrilled with that," Carver said.
"Well, then he should have thought of that before marrying a pirate." Anton crouched over Huon’s corpse, checking the pockets. "Carver, I think you should be the one to bring this back to Meredith. That should put you in her good graces. Try not to mention the part where you were wearing nothing but a sheet and comforted your mage girlfriend after." He stood, finding nothing of use. "Merrill, I’m sorry about Nyssa. And the turnips."