[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 273
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cullen ♂, Keran ♂, Varric ♂, Anders ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D1)
Warnings: Stabbing the furniture
Notes: Cullen learns about bureaucratic magic. Anders has some concerns about Varric’s continued mental health.
"Captain," Keran said, arms full of paperwork he was sorting into the file cabinets in Cullen’s office, "I know I’ve said it before, but it is a joy to have you back."
"Is that because you’re not doing my job as well as yours, any more?" Cullen asked, pulling another report that jutted from the middle of a pile and adding it to the stack of reports of the same type.
"It’s because I’m actually allowed to do my job," Keran grumbled, cramming bundles of paper into the drawers. "Time to start moving things downstairs, again."
"It can’t possibly be. How many months was that? Not nearly enough. She really is trying to drown us in paperwork, isn’t she?" Cullen slumped, hanging his head over the back of his chair. After a moment, he sat up, eyes clear. "Allowed to do your job? I heard Lieutenant… Denis was my temporary replacement. Carver had some things to say on the subject, but Carver’s… You know Carver."
"I do know Carver. And I know … Denis." Keran let that pause hang a long time. "It was like he was trying to make sure you’d be buried under the paper, when you got back. He set me to patrolling the alienage, looking for elven apostates! Like anyone’s going to cast a spell in front of a man in platemail?"
Cullen thought about the Hawkes, and the number of spells they cast in front of him, with or without platemail. He swallowed and went back to shuffling the paper around. "Well, you never know," he said neutrally.
"I do know," said Keran. "And even without the platemail, do you know who elves aren’t going to talk to? ‘Shem’, apparently. Have you ever been called a ‘Buckethead Shemlen’? Because that was a new one, for me."
Cullen tried not to smile at that. He did. If he wanted someone to look into something in the alienage, he would’ve gone to Carver. The elves were, at least, used to his presence, and many even seemed to like him. "No, I can’t say I’ve had that pleasure," he drawled. "Though I’ve been called worse things. Some by my husband, actually."
Keran looked up from the stack of files he was sifting through, cutting one hand through the air. "Don’t need to know, Captain. Don’t want to know, Captain."
"How’s your girlfriend?" Cullen asked, after a long pause. "Speaking of things we didn’t need or want to know about each other…"
Keran had the manners to blush, remembering how Cullen had found out about that. "She’s… ah… she’s not Tranquil. I haven’t been able to see her, much, since I got moved out to the streets, but you’re back, now, and you can see her handiwork on your desk."
"And I thank her for that. Where did she learn that? Do you know?" Cullen asked, increasingly curious about what other bureaucratic problems might be solved with magic. If that wasn’t magic serving man, he didn’t know what would be.
"Starkhaven. Apparently, it’s a local speciality, like the mages here with throwing things." Keran grinned and wedged the last stack into the back of the correct drawer. "She tells me there’s all kinds of magic that can be done with ink and paper — that it’s some combination of healing, summoning, and throwing things."
"Creation and Force." Cullen had been around enough to recognise the descriptions, at least, and attach them to the names of the schools. "I’m actually really interested in how that works, and what else she can do with it. Starkhaven must have had the neatest archives in Thedas."
"Well, she did show me a neat trick, one day. She told me to write her a letter and hide it in the lamp next to her door, and then give her a few sheets of blank paper." Keran leaned back against the file cabinets and folded his arms. "And then she went into her room without looking at the letter at all, and handed me an exact copy of it, after a few minutes. I got my letter and put it next to the other one, and they were the same. It might as well have been me writing it twice, but more exactly than I could have. She said something about it being the same magic that she uses to look for words in these reports, but instead of moving them based on what she finds, she just summons ink in the same pattern onto a new sheet. She can read through closed doors, Captain, as long as she knows where to find the document."
Cullen stared at Keran, then down at the papers on his desk. "She can do that?" he asked. "Magic can do that?" She could be reading a copy of what was on his desk right now, if she wanted to. Granted, she was the one who put that copy there, but.
"Yes!" Keran replied, nodding emphatically and grinning. "It’s incredible! I could ask her to show you, if you like."
Cullen continued to shuffle with the paper in front of him without reading it, just to give his hands something to do. He suddenly had a terrible feeling. "She can copy documents without looking at them, and she learned how to do this in Starkhaven." There had been other mages transferred from the Starkhaven Circle, or there were supposed to be.
"Yes," said Keran again, his smile slipping at the look on Cullen’s face. "Captain, is something the matter?"
"Starkhaven. As soon as I can see my desk, pull the files for the transfers from Starkhaven. The full files. I want to see the transfer letters for them, too," Cullen said, attacking the paperwork on his desk with new vigour. "I have a very bad feeling, and I would like very much to find out that I am wrong."
"Captain?" Keran asked, eyebrow drifting upward.
"I need to see it before I try to explain it. If I’m wrong, I don’t need to be worrying you for nothing." Cullen shook his head, but he was strangely certain he was correct. If the Commander was aware of this particular Starkhaven talent, that might explain a few disappearances. He couldn’t imagine that someone as intent on violating Chantry law as she seemed to be would want record of that getting out, however carefully disguised that record might be. He’d been watching long enough to start to see the hallmarks of her hand in things she’d sworn she had no part of, and she was getting less and less discreet as time went on.
Anders thought he was being subtle, the way he was watching Varric. The dwarf had just finished telling his latest story — to much applause — and Anders brought him a drink. "I thought you must have worked up quite a thirst," he said, sliding the tankard across the table and sitting across from Varric with one of his own. "So… how many golems did you say you fought? Or were they shades? I was a bit confused on that point."
"Believe me, so was the golem," Varric huffed. He tapped Anders’s tankard with his and took a drink, never taking his eyes of the mage. "Go ahead, Blondie."
"What?" Anders asked, all innocence.
Varric waved a hand, slouching back in his chair. "I’m sure one of the Brothers Hawke told you about the shard, and now you want to make sure there are no ‘ill effects’." He tapped a finger to his temple and raised an eyebrow. "Don’t make that face, Blondie. You never come here on a Thursday, and you’re doing that nervous, twitchy thing that Nervy usually does, picking at the edge of the table."
Anders stopped poking at a knot in the wood and slipped his hands under the table. "Am not."
"Don’t worry, Blondie. I’m being careful with the shard. Promise."
Anders shrugged and looked like he might be trying to find the next sentence. Instead, he found the knife he kept at the small of his back, and he leaned across the table, driving it into the wood, between Varric’s hands.
Varric, not being an idiot, leapt back, knocking over his chair to get out of the way of the crazed mage with the knife, who was still, just watching him. "What in the name of all my ancestors was that about?" he shouted, before leaning over to pick up the chair.
"Had to make sure you weren’t possessed. Demons defend themselves. So do spirits. It’s quite visible." Anders struggled to get the blade out of the wood.
And that, Varric had to admit, was probably a fair point. He’d seen Justice get angry about Anders’s safety. "My father’s father’s teeth!" he swore, shaking off the chill sweat that had burst out across his chest. "I’m not possessed. Not even a little."
"I’m happy to hear it," Anders said cheerfully. And he was. He hadn’t been sure what he’d do if Varric had turned out to be possessed. "And you can stop looking at me like that. The knife’s going away, now." He slipped the knife back into his belt.
"And I’m happy to hear that," Varric muttered. He took a long drink, still eyeing the mage. "Anything else you want to test while I’m here?"
Anders grinned. "I’ll let you know. And you’re getting the next round."