[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 258
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Sebastian ♂, Elthina ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Lyrium withdrawal, religious difficulties
Notes: Cullen gets a surprise visitor. Anton calls upon the Grand Cleric.
Cullen wasn’t sure if it was day or night that the knock on his cell door came. He also couldn’t tell if he’d been sleeping or just dreaming with his eyes open in the dark.
"Come on, Captain! Rise and shine!"
And maybe he was still dreaming because that voice sounded familiar. Which was silly, really; the tower was full of voices he knew or at least heard in passing. He was still in the tower, wasn’t he?
The knock came again, hard enough to shake the door on its hinges, and this time Cullen obeyed, rolling to his knees with a groan. Maybe the templar on the other side of the door would have Anton’s face again. He liked those dreams the best.
Cullen staggered to his feet, holding himself up against the door as he squinted through the bars. "How can I help you, Ser?" Even the torchlight seemed bright.
And then the helmet came off. That made no sense whatsoever. That… he had to be seeing things. He’d been seeing things for a while, now, but this? This was a new one. Anders in platemail. "Do I know you?" he asked, trying to cover for the fact that he couldn’t tell who this really was. "It’s so dark in here, it’s hard to make out your face."
What appeared to be Anders took a deep breath, eyes sliding closed for a moment, and then he nodded. "Of course. The lyrium. And you’ve been alone this whole time. I remember." The last words were bitter, but almost sympathetic. "Tell me what you think you see. I’ll nod if you’re right and shake my head if you’re wrong."
"You… you’re —" Cullen caught himself. He didn’t know much, any more, but he knew where he was, and he caught that warning. "You’re that Warden, aren’t you?"
What appeared to be Anders nodded, and said, "A Warden? Down here? They’ve had you off the lyrium too long. We just wanted to make sure you’re still holding up. We know you didn’t do these things, Captain. Just hold on."
Cullen struggled to remember what it was he didn’t do. "That is good to hear," he said, because it was, even if he couldn’t remember why. More softly, he told the hallucination, "You look good in platemail. Sort of." He much preferred Anders in a dress, he thought. Had that happened?
"Thank you, Captain," Anders drawled. "Sort of."
Cullen rested his cheek against the edge of the window. The air wasn’t quite so stale through the bars. "How long?" he asked. He rubbed his fingers together, trying to get the feeling back into them. They tingled like they were half asleep.
"Little more than a week," Anders said, his voice again almost sympathetic.
Was that all? It felt like a lifetime.
"Anton?" Cullen asked. "Is he all right?"
"The Champion is most displeased." Anders’s lips quirked in a smile. "But he’s well. Worried about you, but well."
Cullen sighed and nodded, relieved. This was a good hallucination, he decided. A friendly face saying nice things.
"He wishes you’d come home, of course, but I tried to explain why that wasn’t really possible. He’s a little insistent, of course. You know how he gets." Below the window, the sound of platemail creaking and clattering drifted up, and Anders looked distinctly uncomfortable. "You have been alone, haven’t you? No troubles with the guards? Here, put your hand up by the window and let me see. I’ll need to go, right after. They’ll be on me like dogs for being down here. Anything you want me to tell Anton?"
Cullen didn’t quite understand the question, but something in the back of his mind said it would give him nightmares, either way. Anton. That question he understood. "Anton. I love him very much. I don’t want to be alone any more. It’s so empty in here…" His fingers crept up to the edge of the window, parting around a bar as he gripped the bottom of the window.
"Be thankful you’re alone, for now. Anton’s making a great deal of political noise about this, and it shouldn’t be much longer before you’re back with him." Anders touched Cullen’s fingers, summoning a wave of healing. Healing a templar. Something he never really saw himself doing, especially more than once. "Of course, it’ll feel like forever. I remember." He took back his hand and shook it out. "And now I have to run. Probably literally, after that. We’ll get someone in to you soon. Anton misses you."
Anders — or the templar with Anders’s face — was gone before the word ‘goodbye’ left Cullen’s lips.
The Grand Cleric was not an easy woman to see, on the best of days, which this was distinctly not, with the archivists still emptying the vaults into the keep and trying to document where everything had come from and where it was going to. Anton’s discovery of the partially-collapsed section of the Undercity beneath the Chantry had meant there was an immediate push to reinforce those walls, lest the building drop into the earth. But, Anton was both the Champion of Kirkwall and extremely loud, when he wanted to be. Loud enough, in fact, that Sebastian finally came out to investigate.
"She may be the holiest woman in all of Kirkwall, and the absolute authority within the Chantry, but I am the closest thing to a secular authority this city has, any longer, aside from the Captain of the Guard! I will deal with no one less than Grand Cleric Elthina, herself, in this matter!"
"Anton!" Sebastian seemed surprised to find Bethany’s brother both here and worked into quite such a froth. Anton had always seemed so calm. "What’s happened? What’s going on?"
"The Knight-Captain has been imprisoned on utterly ludicrous charges for nearly two weeks, now, and the Knight-Commander answers to no-one," Anton roared, eyes still boring into the unfortunate sister between him and the door that led back toward the Grand Cleric’s suite. "Except, perhaps, to the Grand Cleric, to whom I am not being permitted to speak!"
"The…? Cullen?" Sebastian looked back and forth between Anton and the Grand Cleric’s door. Nearly two weeks, and he hadn’t heard anything? "Knight-Captain Cullen is a good man. I’m sure—"
"Sebastian, I swear, if you say ‘I’m sure it will work out’, I will punch you in Andraste’s face!"
The sister Anton had been staring down sucked in a gasp, looking utterly offended. Sebastian cleared his throat and clasped his hands strategically over his belt buckle.
"What I was going to say, Anton," Sebastian said slowly, "is ‘I’m sure Her Holiness would be happy to help’."
Anton didn’t quite keep the surprise off his face. "Oh."
"Let me talk to her. Excuse me, sister." Sebastian offered the sister a polite, disarming smile, until she stepped aside with a huff. His knuckles rapped the door. "Grand Cleric!" he called out. "May I have a word?"
Elthina came to the door, after a moment. "Oh, Sebastian! Are you well? What troubles you?"
Sebastian found himself a bit curious that she could ask about him, that she could hear him, but that she didn’t ask about all the shouting. "The Champion has some concerns about the Knight-Commander’s recent actions. There’s some question about her accusations against Knight-Captain Cullen. What exactly were the accusations?"
"He found in favour of Guard Captain Aveline, in a recent dispute that involved the former Captain and a group of crazed nationalists. In discovering that she’d been thoroughly and appallingly slandered, he apparently left himself open to an accusation of corruption and dereliction," Anton drawled. "The templars have no business investigating the city guard in the first place, but I’ll let that little legal technicality pass, since we have no viscount, and all accusations of malfeasance should be investigated."
"Then what is the trouble?" Elthina asked. "The accusations against Knight-Captain Cullen are no doubt being investigated."
"The trouble is that he’s being held in a cell with no lyrium!" Anton barked, before holding up a hand. "Excuse me. I have heard of the effects of withdrawal, and I am very much afraid the man will die, if this is not resolved quickly. I can only hope the damage to his mind is reversible."
Elthina favoured Anton with a sympathetic smile. "We must have patience in this matter, Champion," she said in a tone Anton was trying not to find condescending.
Anton took a deep breath, clasping his hands behind his back as he reined in his temper. "With all due respect, Your Holiness," he said, "‘patience’ on our part might get my husband killed."
"Cullen is a good man," Sebastian said again, turning to the Grand Cleric. "I do not doubt his innocence. Surely there is something we can do?"
"We must place our faith in the Maker," Elthina replied, "and trust that he will sort this out in time."
"I do place my faith in the Maker," Sebastian protested. "But it was the Maker who gave you authority over the Order and the Knight-Commander. Is it not then your duty to intervene?"
"The Maker teaches us patience. His will comes to be in time, and it is upon us to trust in him, even in the most trying times. It is my duty to be faithful, and to ask you to do the same." Elthina looked pityingly at Sebastian. "All these years. Have you learnt so little? I know these are hard times, but that is their value."
"Time is exactly what we do not have any more of." Anton ran a hand through his hair. "It is by His will that you have the authority to make a difference, as Sebastian says. He has given you the right to make decisions in these matters, on His behalf — to rule in the affairs of men, where the Maker’s house and servants are concerned, and I tell you there is trouble in His house! I do not mind the investigation. I welcome the investigation. But I will not have my husband killed over some ridiculous matter!"
"Is it such a ridiculous matter? What purpose would his death serve? If it is none, then you must have faith he will survive. What greater purpose is served by his losses and yours? Do these not remind you to better love and care for what you have?" Elthina shook her head, sadly. "It is the duty of the Knight-Commander to see to discipline within the Order. It falls to her to decide how best to manage the men who serve under her. Perhaps you should remain and pray for guidance, Champion. This road may not be an easy one, but it is the road you are on, and you must ensure it is the Maker who leads you, and not worldly vice, or worse."
Anton was getting nowhere. He didn’t know what he had expected, not after Petrice, not after the way Elthina had handled Orsino and Meredith arguing in the square. He dipped his head respectfully. "I thank you for your time, Grand Cleric," he said neutrally. "I am sorry to have wasted it."
Elthina didn’t seem to know how to respond to that, and Anton didn’t give her a chance to. He padded down the stairs, heading for the door and not the kneelers.
"Your Holiness," said Sebastian, dipping his head as well and backing towards the stairs. "Excuse me." He followed Anton, catching up with him halfway down the nave. Anton looked calm as he walked, dreadfully calm, but Sebastian could see the way the muscles in his jaw tightened. "I will talk to her again later," he said. "Perhaps, after prayer and reflection, she will see what she needs to do."
Anton nodded, his hand on the door. "Thank you," he said. The swearing and venting could wait until he was outside of the Chantry.
"Will Cullen be all right in the meantime?" Sebastian asked earnestly.
Anton’s smile was ugly as he said, "He’d better be," and pulled open the door.