[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 275
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Bethany Hawke ♀, Sebastian ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Isabela ♀, Anders ♂, Leliana ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V1 D0)
Warnings: Inappropriate flirtation, politics, canon-typical violence
Notes: Politics, politics, and wild parties some people are sorry they missed, even as others are grateful.
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.
"Kill the—" The leader’s eyes lit on Anders. "Anders? What are you doing here?"
"Negotiating with the Divine," Anders replied. "What is more fear going to do for us, Cecile? If they’re afraid of us, they’ll push even harder to have us locked away or killed."
"Then they will learn we cannot be contained!" Cecile insisted, slamming her staff against the stone steps. The red carpet down the centre dulled the sound.
"Then we will die," Anders replied. "And we can be contained. Look at us. How many of you know how to use those staves for anything but magic? What happens when the templars come? What happens if the Divine gets wind of this and decides the city needs an Exalted March to bring it back in line? You’re going to get us all killed, and they’ll start with the ones who can’t escape! If we go to the Divine, she’ll fix this. The Knight-Commander is breaking the law. And Elthina does nothing, but the Divine will. I have to believe that she will, or she would have made a move to change the law."
Sebastian threw Anders a surprised look.
"Anders," Cecile scoffed, shaking her head at him pityingly. "You still put that much faith in the Chantry?" She spat out that last word. "After all that’s happened? You’re many things, Anders, but I didn’t think you were naive. The Divine won’t side with us. The Divine won’t listen to us. Now, unless you’re going to help me, back away."
Anton exchanged a look with Bethany, and she nodded, lips twitching up at the corner. He slipped into the shadows, and she flexed her fingers, reaching for her magic.
"I can’t do that, Cecile," Anders said sadly. "Not when there is so much at stake."
Cecile lifted her chin, raised her staff, and finished the command she’d started to give before: "Kill the spies!" But this last word ended in a shriek as she clutched her head, staff falling to clatter down the stairs and rolling to a stop on the carpet.
Behind Cecile, the other mages clutched their heads too or dropped to their knees. Sebastian saw Bethany’s hand raised out of the corner of his eye. This woman never ceased to amaze and frighten him.
Anders rushed forward to help the fallen mages down the stairs, laying them side by side along the rug that ran from the base of the stairs to the door. Gathering their staves, he leaned those in a corner of the first landing, where he could still see them, and none of the mages could reach them. They’d have to have a talk about this, but later.
"Anton, go grab some curtain ties or something, and give your sister a break," Anders said, kneeling beside the row of mages, to check for injuries. On the forearms of two, he found slashes and scarring consistent with one of two conclusions — either blood magic or attempted suicide. Or both, and that was the most terrifying prospect of all. Both implied an active desire to become an arcane horror, and he’d… missed that, thankfully, at Kinloch Hold, but Solona and Cullen hadn’t. Demons were never the solution. They couldn’t be allowed to become the solution.
Anton and Sebastian made quick work of tying the mages down, as Anders tried to explain what was happening.
"Resolutionists," he said, as if that explained everything. When all he got were blank stares, he tried again. "In the Circles, there are, they call them Fraternities, but I’m not sure how much ‘brotherhood’ you could find in all that backstabbing … I suppose you could say political factions, each pushing for a different future for magic. The Loyalists believe the model we have now works. The Aequitarians believe mages should hold themselves to higher standards and shame the templars into proper behaviour or something. The Libertarians — that’s me, for the record — believe in freedom and self-determination for all mages, and a split of the Circle from templar oversight. And the Resolutionists… they’re extremists. I understand them, we come from the same base ideas, but I don’t like them. They’re fighting oppression with terror. It’s not going to end well for anyone, and those least involved in the rebellion are going to suffer first, because there’s no one to protect them. And then there’s the Lucrosians, and they’re just in it for the money."
"I’m not sure I understand the difference," Sebastian admitted, after a moment. "Magic is dangerous. Mages are dangerous. You really should be locked up for everyone’s safety, possibly even your own. ‘Self-determination’ is just going to lead to a reign of terror, no matter how it begins. The demons will come, and without the templars, without the walls of the Circle, what will be there to protect anyone?"
Bethany cleared her throat. "Sebastian, have you stopped to consider the words coming out of your mouth?"
"You’re different!" Sebastian insisted. "You’re not like them!"
"You’re right. I’m not. Because I have a good family, and I don’t live in fear." Bethany waved a hand and cleared the spell she’d cast, and the mages became less tense, panting and blinking as their minds returned to them. "Fear turns people into savages. If you back a sweet dog into a corner and yell and shake a rolled pamphlet in its face, you’ll get bit. If you lock people in cages and tell them they’re cursed and should never have been born, well… you’ll get bit, but it’ll be much worse than any dog. But, just like you can recover a dog, you can recover a person. Just look at Anders. The man should be canonised for his work. Or Fenris, who is kind and relatively righteous, despite his history."
Sebastian sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "And you don’t think that is a bit of an exaggeration?" he asked. "The Circle is not without its flaws, of course, but…" He trailed off, letting the thought disappear as he looked past Bethany at the door behind her.
A red-haired woman leaned against the door-frame, a pair of daggers at her back and a smirk on her lips. "Oh, please," she said, speaking with an Orlesian accent, "do not let me interrupt. I find this quite fascinating." He pushed off the door-frame. "I see you have handled the Resolutionists—"
"Leliana?" Isabela’s voice cut through hers.
Leliana’s eyes went round as saucers. "Isabela?"
Sebastian looked back and forth between them, while Anton bit his lip around a grin.
"‘Sister Nightingale’, indeed," laughed Isabela, cocking her hip and looking Leliana up and down. "I remember it didn’t take much to make you sing."
Leliana laughed nervously, blushing and rubbing the back of her neck.
"Wait, wait." Anders stood up, hands out. "You… and her?"
"Oh, yes. And Solona and Zevran. It was quite a party." Isabela laughed and Anders looked horrified.
"And you didn’t invite me? Is that what I was hearing all night? Andraste’s flaming tits, I’ve been blaming that elf this whole— that was Zevran? Why do I not remember that being Zevran? Perhaps even more importantly, why do I not remember that being Solona? And again, why didn’t you invite me!?" Anders clutched at his chest, stricken.
"I don’t think I knew you, then. Not for almost another year, wasn’t it? Didn’t I meet you on your way out of Ferelden?" Isabela asked.
"Ah, I don’t remember. I spent so much time at the Pearl, it’s a miracle the templars didn’t get me sooner than they did." Anders shook his head. "You still should have invited me. I was gorgeous. I’m still gorgeous."
"You live in the sewer, and I’m not letting you any closer to my cousin than you’ve already been," Anton protested. "And can we please stop talking about things my cousin may or may not have done with two beautiful women and an elf?"
"Would I be wrong to assume the Resolutionists are behind the unrest, here?" Leliana asked, suddenly changing the subject, to Anton’s lasting relief.
Bethany stepped around Sebastian and her brother, presenting herself to Leliana with a deep curtsy. "Bethany Hawke, Lady Amell," she introduced herself. "I believe the blame might more rightly be placed at the door of the Knight-Commander. Not the Templar Order, but the Knight-Commander, herself. My brother has gathered evidence that she has repeatedly violated Chantry law in her pursuit of ‘order’. I trust you remembered to bring copies, Anton?"
Anton pulled a bundle of paper out of the front of his shirt. "If the accusations are brought from above, they will find support in the ranks," he said. "I did not find all this alone."
"Ah, but the Divine sent me to investigate the possibility of a rebellion in Kirkwall. The Divine has long suspected Kirkwall’s problems were spurred by an outside group." Leliana accepted the papers, weighing them in her hand. "But, you say it is a problem from within? From within not just the city, but the very Templar Order?"
"The Knight-Commander takes extreme measures," Anders answered. "She uses Tranquillity as a punishment, and the mages fear for their lives." Sebastian held up a hand, opened his mouth as though to argue, and Anders pointed a finger in his direction. "Don’t you start. I want a peaceful solution to this too, and the only way to do that is by disposing of Meredith."
"Dispose?" Sebastian asked, a touch loudly, his eyebrows arcing towards his hairline.
"Or at the very least depose," Anders replied. "Don’t look so scandalised. Better her than the whole city."
Leliana listened, her expression carefully neutral as she slipped Anton’s papers into her vest. "I will look into this," she said. "Divine Justinia takes the situation here very seriously. She believes it is the worst threat to Thedas since the Qunari invaded."
"A handful of apostates?" Sebastian sputtered, throwing his arms out wide. "How can that possibly—?"
"The whole world is watching Kirkwall," Leliana interrupted. "If it falls to magic, none of us are safe."
Anders made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat. "None of you," he scoffed. "Tell the Divine to take care of Meredith, and it won’t be an issue."
Leliana looked at him for a long moment, taking his measure. Eventually she turned back to Bethany. "Tell Elthina to leave," she said. "There is refuge for her at the Grand Cathedral in Orlais." She shook her head. "She will not be safe here."
"I would be happy to see her go," Bethany said with a smile. "She is a woman well suited for peace, and these violent times do her no mercy."
"She is a woman who needs to do her blighted job," Anders muttered.
Sebastian smirked. "That is a point on which we might agree, though I know we disagree on what course her work should take."
"Boys, boys…" Isabela stepped between them, an arm around each. "Can’t we all just get along? A pretty girl and a lack of pants might help with that problem. What do you think, Leliana?"
Leliana made a small sound that might have been a chirp, as her eyes widened again. "I think you are the obvious choice for such a venture, Isabela! I have heard of your talents even outside my experience, and I cannot imagine anyone better suited to that sort of peacekeeping."
"Hey, I was pretty good at it, once upon a time!" Anders protested.
"Too much information," Anton declared, covering his ears. "Lalala."
"So that means there’s two of us!" Isabela looked delighted, as she leaned closer to Sebastian’s ear. "What do you think, Chantry Boy? Can we make peace with you?"
Bethany leaned toward Leliana. "If she manages this, I would pay in sovereigns to see it. She really is quite talented, isn’t she?"
Sebastian flushed up to the tips of his ears, eyes round. He stepped away from Isabela. "I’m sure you two can make your own peace. Without me." He shuffled closer to Bethany, who hid her smile behind a cough.
"Not quite talented enough, I guess," Leliana drawled. She winked at Sebastian. "Though you don’t know what you’re missing." With a final half-smile at Isabela, Leliana turned and sauntered back through the heavy doors.
"And suddenly, I wish I spent more time in the Chantry," Isabela said, watching her go and more than appreciating the view.
Sebastian tried to respond, only to let his mouth clack shut again.
"Well, now’s your chance, Izzy," Bethany said, slipping an arm through Sebastian’s. "Though I don’t think Elthina is as nice of a view."