[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 269
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anders ♂, Natia Brosca ♀, Varric ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Flirtation, dildo paperweights, that is not how you cope with Fade rifts
Notes: Anders has a plan. Varric has a very different plan.
Underground. If there was something in this world that made Anders ridiculously uncomfortable, it was being underground. Which, if he was entirely honest with himself, was a little ridiculous, since he’d been living in a cellar and working in Darktown for years, now. Still, the tunnels bothered him, and they bothered him more in the undercity. That smell of settled dust and dry death just hung in the still air, and the temperature never changed. But, he made his way down the ancient hallways until he heard the sound of dwarves joking and singing.
Stepping out into the light of the fungus lamps, he took a look around the first chamber — tables piled with tools and papers, people sitting around eating and drinking, as clouds of dust drifted in from the next room. "Has anyone seen Natia?" he asked, holding up a box of fruit tarts. He remembered hearing she liked those. ‘Not bad,’ Fenris had told him, complete with dwarf impression. "I heard she got the contract. Thought I’d come down and see how she was doing."
"Natia!" one of the men shouted through a doorway. "There’s some tall blond looking for you! Looks like somebody stacked all the Rorik brothers one on the next!"
"What are you shouting about?" Natia called back, following her voice into the room. She spotted Anders and the box in his hand, and a smile lit her face. "Oh! Anders!" She patted her sleeves, expelling puffs of dust, and tried to tuck her wayward hair behind her ears. "What brings you here?" As she approached, Natia tried looking around Anders, to see if he was alone.
Anders fought to keep a straight face, knowing exactly whom she was hoping to see. "I just wanted to see how everything was coming along," he said, looking around him. "And to see you, of course, Natia dear. Cormac sends his love, but I thought I might buy your affection with treats." He held the box of tarts out to her, eyebrows twitching up coyly.
Natia snorted a laugh and took a tart. "Are you wooing me, Anders?" she asked around a mouthful of tart, holding a hand up under her chin to catch the crumbs.
"Are you so easily wooed by tarts?" Anders quipped.
"By and with, apparently," Natia said, stuffing another tart into her mouth as she closed the box. "Heard stories about you."
"Let me clear up any questions you might have about those stories. If they didn’t involve goats or Dalish teenagers, they were probably true." Anders laughed and rubbed the back of his neck.
"Tarts with tarts, yet another feature of the surface I didn’t know I needed." Natia grinned and raised her eyebrows suggestively. "But, really, what are you doing down here. I thought you didn’t like tunnels."
"Well, you know how it is. Pretty girls, Tevinter architecture… pretty hard to keep me away." Anders looked around the room. "How’s the work going, anyway? Dig up anything surprising?"
"Might’ve been surprising if I hadn’t already seen the room full of dicks and dragons," Natia said, picking up a roll of papers stuck between a pair of what looked to be semi-precious dildoes. She flattened the papers out on one of the tables and held the edges with the box of tarts and a couple pieces of stone. "This is the way it looked last week," she explained. "The new drawings are still being worked up, but this is about where we’ve gotten to. You can see where we’ve already cleared out most of the collapse, right in here, and we’re trying to put in a new wall in the old style, but with more solid construction. It’s Tevinter down here, but it’s actually Tevinter. Doesn’t look like that much dwarven work, aside from a few basic concepts. Like, they used people who’d worked with a dwarven crew, maybe. No dwarf would ever have built something that came apart this easily."
"Natia, it’s been what, a thousand years, give or take? And most of it’s still standing, including the buildings above it. That’s not exactly ‘easy’." Anders shook his head.
Natia waved that number aside as though it were nothing. "When I’m done, it’ll look good as new. And in ten thousand years, it will still look good as new!"
Anders chuckled. "That’s a bit ambitious, don’t you think? Why not aim for five thousand? Five thousand’s still a respectable number."
"Sure." Natia rested her hand on one cocked hip as she peered up at him. "It will still be standing in five thousand years. And in another five thousand years after that." She plucked another tart from the box and chewed triumphantly. "Solid. Dwarf. Construction," she said between bites.
Anders shook his head, smiling indulgently, and bent to look at the drawings over her shoulder. "And we’re standing, what, right here?" He pointed at a space to the bottom left, glancing up and around to get his bearings.
Natia hummed and nodded. "Right under the Chantry library," she said through a mouthful of tart.
"Huh." Anders studied the rest of the drawing and traced a couple of lines with his fingers.
"You’re thinking of stealing something, aren’t you?" Natia asked, watching Anders’s eyes. "I know that look."
"If I were thinking of stealing something, I’d be trying to get into the keep," Anders muttered, squinting at the ceiling. "They already moved all the good stuff. The histories and the old Tevinter maps and all that? All under the keep somewhere until you’re done in here."
"Uh-huh." Natia didn’t look convinced. "So you’re not down here to bribe me into leaving you a secret entrance into the bowels of the Chantry."
Anders paused, then dragged his eyes back down to Natia, a mischievous gleam in them. "Well, you know, if you put it like that, I might have to at least try. Not that I’d steal anything. I’m not in the habit of thievery. Quite poor at it, all told. But, I might slip in and copy some things of interest."
"You scholars are just weird, you know that? All of you, and I’ve known a few, in my day. All alike, right down to the humans." Natia shook her head and laughed. "You won’t do anything illegal, but you’ll do things that are horribly complicated and might as well be illegal except nobody’s made a law about it. Copy some things of interest. From a library in a sealed vault."
"But nothing illegal, as you pointed out," Anders said, putting on his most charming smile. "Just scholarly interests, books on Tevinter history. Tevinter magic. It might lend some insight into this city and how and why it was built the way it was."
Natia hummed, brow smoothing in realisation. "You sound like the writer for that piece in the Gazette. The something of Kirkwall. Mystery? Conundrum?"
"Enigma," supplied Anders, nodding. "Though ‘Conundrum of Kirkwall’ has a nice ring to it." He leaned in, and his smile turned crooked. "Anyway. Cormac will deny it, but he loves that stuff. He reads that column religiously."
Natia’s brows twitched up, but she affected disinterest. "Oh?" she said, smoothing out the drawings.
"Oh, yeah. He’s crazy about the idea of secrets hidden in the ground. Stuff we walk on, every day, and never give a second thought, but there used to be a whole other world down here." Anders laughed, nervously. "I’m … I like surface history a little more. It’s less underground."
"You are a little tall for dwarven architecture. Not that you won’t fit, but you can’t properly appreciate it from all the way up there. It’s designed to be seen from a lower vantage point. You’re missing out on all the best angles." Natia grinned, stepping away from the table. "And that’s some of the difference, down here. Somebody was looking at these stones all wrong."
Anders turned to follow, as she started pointing to features, but he caught his bag on a pile of rolled blueprints, knocking them off the table in a hail of paper. "Dogs and dogshit!" He flailed, catching what he could, and bent to gather the rest, tucking one roll into his coat. Maybe he could get into the vaults. If nothing else, he’d have a clearer view of the Chantry than he was going to get walking around the building and counting his steps.
"Nice one!" Natia teased, clapping slowly.
Anders stood with a sarcastic bow and a flourish of his hand. "Not my finest moment, I’ll admit," he said sheepishly as he followed her. "But I brought you tarts. You shouldn’t mock those who bring you tarts."
"Mock a tart who brings me tarts?" Natia said, batting her eyelashes. "Never!"
Anders flapped his hand at her. "Come on, then. Continue with the tour."
Natia went back to pointing out the architecture, eyes alight as she gestured around her, and Anders indulged her, plucking up the last tart.
"Well, well. If it’s not Stabby and Sl—" Varric coughed. "Nervy. The two quiet Hawke brothers. I was just looking for at least one of you."
"Looking for me? Oh, that sounds exciting. Am I swiping the smalls off a still-clothed guardsman again?" Anton asked, taking the tankard Edwina offered him.
"You remember that house Bartrand barricaded himself in?" Varric asked, watching Anton from the corner of his eye. "No point in keeping a house with him in the asylum. I’ve been trying to get rid of the place for ages now."
"Don’t tell me. You’ve come to the richest and dashingest man in Kirkwall, to turn it into an elven hostel?" Anton joked.
"Yes, and the Champion here will help too, I’m sure," Artie added. He eyed the tankard Edwina offered him longingly. "Just water for me, thanks."
"Wiseass." Anton shoved Artie’s shoulder, without looking, and unsurprisingly his brother didn’t move at all. "I don’t expect you’ve found anyone into Kirkwall murder chic."
"There’s a really small number of people who want expensive, blood-covered houses in Hightown, and half of them are married to Nervy, over here." Varric laughed, but kept talking. "Found a minor noble in Rivain who bought the place sight unseen. But now there’s a problem."
"Other than the excessive number of Rivaini noblemen suddenly in Kirkwall?" Anton asked, half a smile curling the corner of his mouth.
"Well, I don’t know if I would call that a problem," said Artemis. He sipped at his water and tried to look like he was enjoying it.
"I might," Varric drawled, "but anyway. They say the place is…haunted." His thumb played with the rim of his tankard, nail tracing the chipped edge.
Anton and Artie exchanged a look, and Anton threw up his hand. "Weird magical shit is your deal," he said. "Though creepy magical shit is more Bethy’s, really…"
Artie cleared his throat and turned back to Varric. "Whatever Bartrand was doing in there must have weakened the barrier between this world and the Fade."
"Maker, I hope not!" Varric huffed. "I don’t think we can fix the Veil through applied use of force."
Artie looked speculative.
"No, we can’t," said Anton, "and we’re not trying. Now, Varric, when you say ‘haunted’…"
"They’ve noticed some minor problems," Varric said, shrugging one shoulder. "Voices whispering in the walls, apparitions, things moving on their own. My hope is it’s a relic Bartrand brought back from the Deep Roads. We smash it, and the haunting stops."
Anton tapped his lip as he considered. "And, hypothetically speaking, if we just did nothing…?" He trailed off, spreading his hands expressively.
"Best case?" Varric sighed. "They drag me before the seneschal and accuse me of fraud. The worst case involves Antivan Crows."
"I’m not an expert on hauntings, but what if smashing things does not make the problem go away?" Anton asked carefully examining a corner of the ceiling. "I’m just saying. It’s Kirkwall."
"Ah, that’s where things get tricky," Varric replied, looking a little grimmer than he had. His eyes lit on Artemis. "You’re a mage! You must know something about… weird shit! I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out something that’ll help. I’m a businessman. Now and then, I shoot people. I don’t know anything about ghosts or magic."
"So, really, you don’t need me, you need him. And maybe Bethany. She really is a weird shit specialist." Anton lifted an eyebrow pointedly, as he mentioned his sister.
"It’s entirely possible that even if we find the thing that’s causing the problem, we won’t be able to stop it without a bit of the ol’ glam-hands." Varric shrugged. "I’m not saying you shouldn’t come. I’m just saying it’s going to take more than just you and me."
"Fine, fine," Anton sighed. "I see how you are. Flatter me to get yourself some magical assistance. Fortunately for you, flattery will get you everywhere. Flattery and beer, and you’re picking up my tab, for this."