[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 274
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Bethany Hawke ♀, Sebastian ♂, Elthina ♀, Anton Hawke ♂, Isabela ♀, Anders ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Elthina talks
Notes: Elthina has some concerns about a possible Exalted March. Bethany and Sebastian agree to meet with an agent of the Divine. Anders is delighted to be invited along.
"Lady Amell." The sister looked away from the conversation she was having with a distraught lesser noble and nodded at Bethany.
Bethany smiled and returned the nod, catching the end of what the noblewoman was yelling about. "— grandchildren! Jatia is my only child and she’s not getting any prettier!"
"You must be patient, my dear. I’m sure Jatia has a wonderful personality," the sister reassured her.
The noblewoman threw her hands up. "What man cares about personality!?"
"The kind that won’t give you grandchildren," Bethany said, as she passed. "In fact, I’m on my way to see one of those, right now." With a wink, she made her way toward the altar, where she could see Sebastian speaking with the Grand Cleric.
"The First Enchanter oversteps his bounds!" Sebastian insisted, crossing his arms.
"He was provoked." Elthina sounded tired.
"The people want to know which side you favour," Sebastian insisted. "It weakens you."
"Strength will not win this fight, Sebastian." Elthina smiled gently. "If the Maker is merciful, he will help them find peace. We can only be waiting when they do."
Bethany could see the frustration in the set of Sebastian’s jaw. "Do you never intend to give a public answer, Your Grace?"
Elthina shrugged. "What have I been asked?"
"About the mages! You could calm this fire if you stepped forward."
But Elthina shook her head. "The Chantry’s teachings are clear. Those who turn against them would not listen more to me than to Andraste."
"Mage this, templar that," Bethany singsonged as she approached. She slipped her hand into the crook of Sebastian’s arm, and his expression softened. "Is there anywhere in Kirkwall people don’t talk about this?"
Sebastian squeezed Bethany’s hand. "The last time mages rebelled against the Chantry, they ended up ruling Tevinter," he said. "You know that. We can’t just ignore them."
Bethany’s sweet smile told Sebastian that, yes, they could.
"I did not expect things to deteriorate so fast. I thought after the Qunari, no one would wish for more violence." Elthina shook her head and looked at Bethany, before her eyes moved back to Sebastian. "It has drawn more attention than I would like. Sebastian, if I may ask—"
"Anything, Your Grace," Sebastian assured her, flustered by the chance to be of service, at last.
"And perhaps you as well, Lady Amell?" Elthina asked.
"You may ask me anything, Grand Cleric," Bethany replied, snapping her fan open across the lower half of her face. The implication, she hoped, was sufficiently clear.
"You honour me," Elthina replied, with a shallow bow. "The Divine is concerned about the situation here. She does not want to see the Free Marches become another Imperium. She has sent an agent to … assess the danger. Meet with her, please. Tell her drastic measures won’t be required."
"I certainly don’t want to see the Divine’s armies march against Kirkwall," Bethany said, nodding.
"Surely the Divine wouldn’t treat the whole city as enemies?" Sebastian looked mildly horrified at the idea, if a bit disbelieving.
"The Exalted Marches of the past say otherwise," Bethany pointed out. "If the city is contaminated with heresy, it must all be rooted out and destroyed."
"She is concerned," Elthina said, resting a hand on Sebastian’s arm. "It is never wise to draw the concern of the powerful."
"She is the voice of Andraste! She cannot turn the might of the Chantry against the innocent due to … proximity!"
"Were no innocents harmed in the Exalted Marches?" Elthina pointed out. "She will do her best, Sebastian, but she must act first to protect the faith."
"But I am sure it won’t come to that, after we have spoken to this agent," Bethany assured them both. "Your Grace, what can you tell me about this servant of the Divine?"
Elthina looked grateful. "I was not told her real name, only to call her Sister Nightingale." She drew in a breath. "She is said to be the Divine’s left hand, sent to do work that might blacken the Divine’s name."
Well, that was interesting. Bethany fluttered her fan in front of her face as she considered. Perhaps she ought to talk to Anton about this. "And do you have any advice on how she might be persuaded?"
"The Divine has heard my protests already," Elthina said tiredly. "I must trust your own powers of persuasion now."
"Then this should not wait," Bethany replied. She squeezed Sebastian’s arm, and he smiled tenderly, thankfully, down at her.
"Thank you," he said softly. "We cannot allow this… mage rebellion to turn into holy war."
"The agent, Sister Nightingale," said Elthina, "will be waiting in the viscount’s throne room tonight. She wishes to remain… unseen."
Bethany’s eyebrows rose. "Has anyone even been in there since the Qunari invasion?"
"The room has been sealed," Elthina told her. "It may be difficult to get in without attracting attention."
Bethany simply smiled. "I doubt that will be a problem," she said, offering her arm to Sebastian. "Come, Sebastian. We’re going to be late for tea with my brother and the Knight-Captain."
"An agent of the Divine!" Anders marvelled, on the steps of the keep. "And you just… thought of me? I could kiss you, Bethany, but all of your brothers would beat me bloody and I’d never get laid again."
Sebastian cleared his throat.
"You don’t actually worry me as much as you think you should, Chantry Boy. You’re standing too close to shoot me." Anders laughed, quietly, squeaking when Isabela slipped in behind him and pinched his ass.
"You truly are missing out on the best the Hawkes have to offer," Isabela assured Anders, wrapping an arm around his waist as she ducked under the arm that held his staff.
"I’m going to pretend you mean me, Izzy, just so I don’t have to beat my head against this statue until I forget you said that," Anton said, slipping out of the shadows at the far side of the stairs. "Late night break-ins? Sneaking around? Spies working for the Divine? You knew I couldn’t stay away."
"Oh, I thought Cullen might have kept you in with his profound virtues," Bethany joked, with a sly glance at her brother.
"Oh, if we’re talking about virtues, it doesn’t get more profound than Anders’s virtue," Isabela volunteered, and Anders looked like he was seriously considering whether he could become part of the stone of the steps. Maybe he should have studied a bit more earth magic.
"I do hope you’re talking about Justice," Anders groaned.
"If that’s what we’re calling it," Isabela said with a mischievous smirk. "And if that’s what you mean by ‘doing Justice’."
Anders passed a hand over his eyes but could not unsee the pained look on Sebastian’s face.
"Beginning to wish I had stayed away," Anton groaned. He passed them on the stairs and pulled open the keep’s heavy doors in an attempt to escape this conversation.
Inside, the night guard greeted him with a smile and a nod of his head. "Champion," he said, and Anton replied with his most charming smile.
"Good evening, Maecon!" Anton said. "Did you draw the short straw tonight?"
Maecon laughed, dipping his head self-consciously. "I must’ve," he said. "Doesn’t matter. I’m off in an hour, anyway."
The guards were used to seeing him come and go from the keep, visiting Aveline, and as Anton and the others walked by, Maecon didn’t even stop to question them. Aveline would probably thrash him for it, if she saw, but Anton wasn’t about to complain.
Bethany walked close to her brother as they walked down the hall. She knew that he was thinking the same thing, that they hadn’t been in this part of the keep since the battle with the Arishok. It was unsettling, standing in front of these doors again.
"Sealed off, like Elthina said," Sebastian murmured after trying the knobs. He shook his head. "A strange place for a holy sister to be."
Anton and Isabela stepped forward at the same time, eyeing each other. At the end of a brief, nearly silent scuffle, they bumped the doors, which swung open.
"That was mine," Anton declared, barely above a whisper.
"Liar," Isabela accused.
"Professionally," Anton agreed, and they walked into the antechamber, patting each other on the back.
"I shouldn’t ask, should I?" Sebastian’s eyebrow arced up.
"No, you really shouldn’t. Any answer you get, at this point, I’ll regret hearing." Anders shook his head and followed, leaving Bethany and Sebastian to bring up the rear.
As Anton and Isabela held open the next set of doors for the other three, a group of mages — obviously mages, to judge by the staves — made their way down the stairs from the throne.
"So, even the Divine fears us, now." The mage leading the group smiled proudly. "She should."
Anton and Isabela shut the doors and barred them, meaning to keep whatever this turned into from spilling out into the rest of the keep.