[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 283
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Isabela ♀, Theron Mahariel ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Spider guts, canon-typical violence, CORMAC NO
Notes: More elves, and the return of an ancient elven horror.
"Is this that shem your wife was talking about?" a young woman with green vallaslin asked Theron, as they got closer to the fire.
"No, that’s the tall one. This is the shem I’m always talking about." Theron laughed and slung an arm around Artemis, to an intense growl from Fenris. "Oh, calm down, Fenris. You know I’ll give him back."
Artemis offered the woman an awkward smile. "I probably don’t want to know the things he’s been saying about me, do I?"
"Not nearly as bad as the things I say to you," Theron growled in his ear. Artemis blushed and prodded Theron’s ribs with his elbow. "But perhaps I’ll save those words for later. This is Variel." He nodded at the woman.
Variel tilted her head curiously. "Did you need something?" she asked, looking between Theron and the shem under his arm.
"Yes, actually," Artemis replied. "We’re looking for someone. An elf, obviously. A particular elf, not just any elf in general." He cleared his throat. "An Antivan assassin. I have heard he’s hiding among you."
Variel scoffed, looking him up and down. "He is not among us," she said. "He has set up a cave away from our camp. He said there would be people looking for him and to tell anyone who asked where he was."
"Isn’t the point of hiding not to be found?" Fenris drawled.
"He said he didn’t want to endanger our people by asking us to lie for him," Variel said. She smirked. "Not something you’d expect from a cruel and evil murderer, is it?"
Anders and Isabela looked at each other. "It’s him," they both said, nodding.
"He’ll be waiting for you at the cave. Good luck trying to reach him, though." Variel’s eyebrows lifted suggestively, and then she left them, calling out to a boy carving wood on the other side of the camp.
"It’s … who?" Cormac asked, finally.
"Your cousin," Isabela said, wrapping an arm around Cormac’s waist.
"By marriage," Anders clarified. "Your cousin’s husband, technically."
"Are you related to everyone in Thedas?" Fenris asked. "Related to or sleeping with. I will be terribly surprised, the day we meet someone neither related to nor sleeping with any Hawkes."
"He’s not sleeping with any Hawkes, that I know of," Cormac pointed out. "She’s an Amell. Other side of the family."
"He’s still married to her, and therefore related to you," Fenris drawled, looking thoroughly unimpressed with the entire situation.
"Varric," Artie pointed out. "That is someone you know who is neither related to nor sleeping with a Hawke. I think. I’m assuming. He isn’t, is he?" He shot Cormac a worried look.
"No, I’d know if he was," Isabela sighed. "But we could change that when we get back in Kirkwall." She arced her eyebrows at Artemis meaningfully.
Fenris somehow managed to look even less impressed.
"Sorry, Izzy," said Artemis. "I’m not terribly into dwarf culture. Even if it’s Varric’s." He squeezed Theron’s arm and smiled at him. "Thanks for your help. I don’t suppose you could point us towards the cave she’s talking about?" There were a few caves around the camp, and he really hoped it wasn’t one of the caves they’d already been in.
Theron cleared his throat. "Do you remember the varterral? He chose that cave. Fortunately, your bravery already removed the thing, so he could move right in."
"Bravery." Cormac coughed. "That’s… one word for it. I like to think we did a lot of screaming and running around, with a bit of setting things on fire."
"You survived. It didn’t. That puts you on better footing than a lot of people, around here, four I could actually name," Theron pointed out, drily. "And I am not coming with you, this time, either. Unlike dear Merrill, my family still has a home in this clan, and I’d like to keep it that way. No offence to Kirkwall, but … no, all offence to Kirkwall. You people eat like barbarians."
"Two barbarians, a mountain savage, and two more people from actually civilised places," Cormac counted.
"Tevinter is not a civilised place," Theron said, and Fenris nodded his agreement. "Have you eaten Tevinter food?"
Fenris stopped nodding and glared. "Weren’t you going away? I believe we have an assassin to capture."
Theron laughed. "It was nice seeing you too, Fenris," he said. "But better to see you." He winked at Artemis, who smirked and waved him away.
"I’m so glad we defeated the varterral just so an assassin could move in," Fenris muttered, sliding an arm around his mage’s waist as Theron walked away. "Even if he is related to you."
"Not as glad as I am," Isabela said, nudging Fenris with her elbow. Fenris looked still less impressed.
They left the Dalish camp and headed for the appointed cave, one Fenris had hoped to never set foot in again. As they drew close, a cluster of spiders scurried over to greet them.
"Oh, good, a welcoming committee," Artie muttered. He drew out his staff and made a fist with his free hand. The spiders flattened to the ground, legs flailing. As they got back up, Artie cast again, smacking the spiders into the ground as many times as necessary.
"That’s definitely one way to solve that problem. Like a rolled broadsheet, but for giant spiders." Whatever spell Cormac had been holding flickered out, suddenly entirely unimportant.
"Tell me he didn’t hit me with spider guts," Anders groaned, patting at his hair as he looked down his coat, which was, refreshingly, spider-guts free.
Isabela swaggered toward the entrance of the cave, daggers in her hands. "Oh, it’s going to be one of those caves, is it?"
Down the stairs, then down the stairs again, and Fenris opened his mouth to say something about the contrast of the primitive architecture with the fact that two great civilisations had done battle on this peak, but he was cut off by the descent of more spiders.
"No," Anders said, and the floor beneath the spiders turned green as they touched down on it.
Cormac followed by stunning them all, and clenching a fist. One spider collapsed into a sphere a bit larger than a fist. "You want the rest of them, Artie?"
"Sure." Artemis flexed his fingers on his staff. "Just make sure none of the splatter gets on me?" He was already standing strategically behind Anders, but the barrier that shimmered to life in front of him was an added relief. Clenching his fist again, Artemis flattened the spiders into the floor. "Thanks, brother dear."
"Well, you boys know how to clear a room," Isabela said, slipping her daggers back into their sheaths. She sauntered off ahead of them, stepping over gooey spider corpses. Down a rickety set of stairs, Izzy held out a hand for them to stay where they were. "Oh! Looks like our favourite assassin left us a present." She squatted to examine the pressure plates and tripwire she’d found. "Lots of presents," she amended. After a few minutes, she stood and dusted off her hands. "Come on down, boys! Just try not to step there, there, or… there."
Down more steps and Isabela’s eyes stayed on the ground, checking for more traps. Or other things, it seemed. "Ooh! A real present!" her hand darted into a pile of bones at the bottom of the stairs, and came back with a wide-banded wooden ring, with strange carvings on it. Of course that might have been because she was holding it upside down.
"Let me see?" Cormac reached for it, but it disappeared into Isabela’s pocket. "Or not."
"How far underground are we?" Anders complained, as the stairs continued, one flight after another.
"Not far enough," Fenris grumbled. "I’m sure they can still hear your whining on the surface."
"Oh, boys," Izzy sighed, stretching herself between them to squeeze both their bottoms at once. "Play nice."
"That is my ass!" Anders protested. "That is my ass, and I’m using it!"
"No, you aren’t," Isabela scoffed, eyeing him sideways, as Fenris tried to get his ears to stop twitching.
"The point remains, that ass is mine. Which makes it not yours."
"Well, there’s no fun in grabbing my own ass, is there?" Isabela laughed, giving Fenris a firm squeeze and an eyebrow raise as she stepped forward to resume her search for traps.
"I remember this room," Fenris said, looking around. "And I do not see the wreckage of that thing."
Cormac took a deep breath and spread shields to all of them. "I am really hoping this isn’t the holy miracle to test my faith, because I could do without that kind of miracle," he muttered, turning in a circle and eyeing every niche in the walls.
While Cormac looked around, Artie looked up. "Shit!" He tugged Cormac back as a familiar seven-limbed monstrosity slammed into the floor in front of them. The ground trembled under its impact, and Fenris pulled the mages behind him. "Didn’t we already kill this thing? I thought we already killed this thing?"
"We did," said Anders. "And rather thoroughly, I thought." His fingertips glowed blue, and ice crackled along the varterral’s legs. The creature shrieked and tried to shake off the ice, and Isabela and Fenris darted in while it was distracted.
Artemis spread out from the other mages, pulling sheets of rock armour to him and then throwing lightning at the creature.
"What is this thing?" Isabela shouted over the noise, ducking and darting around the creature’s stomping legs. Her daggers glanced off as though it were made of stone.
"A pain in my ass," Fenris growled, glowing blue and hacking at the varterral’s joints.
"A sacred contraption," Cormac called out, pinning the leg Fenris was hacking at, with a quick spell, and then taking a moment to consider. "I’m going to do something stupid, and I need everyone to back up! Anders, throw a storm on that, just to light the edges. I’m going to pull something about the same size. As soon as everyone’s out of the way, I want you to break my nose."
"What!?" Anders fumbled his staff, nearly dropping it. Still, the tempest exploded in a hail of lightning and wind around the varterral, and Isabela danced back out of the way.
Fenris’s ears tilted back as he started to put the pieces together. "You’re not going to—? Venhedis. You are." He finished the swing he was in the middle of, with no mind to how it glanced off the wood of the creature’s leg, grabbing Artemis as he ran past. "Move. You weren’t there. Move."
Anders looked at Cormac. "I really don’t think —"
"Punch me in the fucking face, before that thing moves!" Cormac insisted, flames licking at his fingertips.
"Andraste’s tits, if I don’t end up dead from this thing, I’ll be dead when the Maker strikes me down for punching an ally in the middle of a battle against something greater than I really want to tango with for a second time. Third time." Still, he hauled off and slammed his fist into Cormac’s face, praying he didn’t knock the man unconscious.
Cormac’s entire body lit in blue and grey-green, lightning sparking between his fingers as the flames ran up his arms, and then the ground ripped itself apart, under the varterral, fountains of flame spurting up from the cracks, icy winds and lightning striking down from above. He supposed their arrival wasn’t a secret any longer, if ever it had been, and there was still the assassin to be dealt with.
The varterral fared ill against the onslaught, wooden limbs catching fire, stone and metal splitting and twisting. It finally wrenched its leg free, but found no culprit to fight.
"What did you just…?" Artemis stared first at the varterral, then at Cormac. "Did he just punch a spell out of you?"
"Killing now, explaining later," Anders said.