[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 293
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Isabela ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence
Notes: As expected, that’s not a treasure map, so much as a trouble map.
They made their way back up Sundermount, towards the Dalish camp. This time Theron didn’t fall into the road to greet them, but the woman who’d stood guard with him earlier was there, likely with a second guard still tucked out of sight.
"Back again, shems?" she said. "Here to give Theron a longer goodbye?"
From her tone, Artie couldn’t tell if she was teasing or sneering. Probably sneering.
"We are merely passing by," Fenris answered, meeting her stare. "Our destination is farther up the mountain." He jutted his chin towards the peak.
The elf guard seemed mollified. "Go on then. Make it quick." She stepped to the side to let them pass, only to call out to them before they were out of sight. "Shems! Hold on a moment."
"Not sure how I feel about being called a shem," Fenris muttered.
The woman approached them, pulling a scroll from her belt and holding it out. "I found this on the road shortly after you’d left. Did you drop it?"
Izzy snatched it for herself before anyone could answer. Unrolling it, her eyebrows shot up. "Well, well. This looks familiar." She nudged Cormac with her elbow and showed the scroll to him.
"That’s Rivaini, isn’t it? Read it to me." Cormac rubbed the back of his head. He could read a lot of things, but oddly enough, Rivaini was not on the list. He kept meaning to get to that, but Antivan had seemed more important, the last time.
"You, of all people, can’t read Rivaini? You are a dogshit barbarian, aren’t you?" Isabela laughed. "‘He was our hero against Par Vollen, and we were in awe. Perhaps it was our fault. There was a day when he changed and saw us as servants, not those he offered to serve. And then he was infested. We need a seal, Scholar, in the faith you choose. The price is paid.’ And then the next part’s in Common. You need me to read that, too?"
Cormac rolled his eyes and read the rest. "‘Of binding a symptom, no vial can contain you. Three of three, you perverted a man elevated by others. I will not yield, even as I must turn to face you. Truth will hold you, or a new truth we will create.’ This really doesn’t sound good, but at least there’s only three of whatever these are. I wonder what happened to the first one, and I really wonder why these things are showing up now. They don’t look new."
"We’ve made a name for ourselves, in certain circles," Anders pointed out. "I wouldn’t be surprised if every demon in the Marches doesn’t have a bounty on our heads, by now."
"You think it’s a trap?" Cormac asked, squinting at the map at the bottom.
"Let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised."
"A bit complicated for a trap," said Artie, frowning. "A pair of scrolls on Sundermount handed to us by elves who, I assume, don’t want us dead." He glanced back at the guardswoman. "Or who at least don’t care enough to go out of their way to harm us. I hope. This is also implying that there is a third scroll — or a first, technically. Where is that?"
"Maybe a third elf will appear and hand us that one," Izzy said, sidling up to Fenris. "Or maybe Fenris has it hidden in his pants somewhere. Let me check."
Fenris snorted. "I think you checked my pants rather thoroughly earlier."
Artemis chuckled and wrapped an arm around Fenris’s waist on his other side.
If it was a trap, they decided to walk into it, beginning with the map on the first scroll they’d found. It shouldn’t have been hard to find the cave they were looking for — the path up was fairly plain and wide enough not to be mistaken — but they hadn’t quite realised it led through the middle of the mark on the other map, until the shades began to surface around something more ragged and humanoid.
"That’s not on the map!" Cormac objected, unshouldering his glaive and striking lightning through the demonic forms rising out of the earth.
"Did you expect it to be? They weren’t here the last time we were up this way," Fenris pointed out, cleaving a shade in two. "I’m sure I would have remembered that."
Isabela jammed her knives into what was now, obviously, an arcane horror. "Ah, nature. It just keeps changing around to screw with you."
"Pretty sure this is the opposite of natural," Anders quipped, laying more lightning across the group. "Is that thing wielding an axe?"
"Don’t know what you’re talking about!" Artie said cheerfully, even though his eyes were wide. He threw rock at the Arcane Horror, sheets of stone appearing and surrounding the creature’s head. "What’s more natural than a reanimated pile of bones trying to kill you?"
Anders quirked an eyebrow at him as he continued to cast. "Is this Bethany’s influence? Because suddenly I am so much more concerned about your childhood."
While the Arcane Horror was distracted — unable to see through rock even without eyes, apparently — Fenris charged in, Fade-blue hand punching through what was left of the creature’s skin and tearing out its spine. Anders winced in sympathy.
Isabela darted in and out of the shadows, knives slicing through shades. "I’ll have you know," she said over her shoulder, "that Bethany is the best influence." She grinned, and Artie groaned.
"No, nope. Don’t need to know." Artie switched to lightning.
Cormac’s glaive sliced through two shades, and he glanced around. "Did we get them all? I don’t want any going down the mountain…"
One of Isabela’s daggers flew over his shoulder. "Missed one."
Anders finished that one off with a blinding lightning strike that melted a palm-sized spot on the ground.
Fenris set to disarticulating what was left of the horror, after setting the axe aside. "Strange mages, in the Marches," he muttered. "Spears and glaives and axes… isn’t magic enough?"
"Come on, you know better," Anders reminded him, sloshing a little water on the axe blade and cleaning off some of the design. "Just like there’s always magic, there’s always a way to stop magic. Just like you can stop a sword with a shield. Nothing’s good for everything." He and Isabela puzzled over the axe, for a bit.
"This looks like a really nice reproduction of that axe from the stories…" Isabela said, at last. "With the goodman and the reaver, and the bloom of bone and gut, or whatever that line is. I mean, I don’t know if it’s a real axe, in the story, but this looks like it was made to look like that one, and it’s very definitely a real axe."
"How do you know these things?" Fenris asked, looking up from the pile of bones he was crushing.
"I spent a lot of years in dockside taverns. I know all sorts of wild stories, and I have no idea if half of them are true. Of course the longer I spend in Kirkwall, the more believable some of them become."
"And here I thought you were only into the Page Six kind of ‘wild stories’," Artemis drawled, kicking aside a bit of bone that had rolled next to his foot. Ew. Then he paused to consider his words. More ew. "Unless that is the kind of story you’re talking about? Do I want to know what the ‘goodman and the reaver’ were up to?"
Isabela shrugged. "They were kin in ‘blood and sin’, so I don’t know. Probably summoning demons. And then the one got bent and killed the other. I really found the talk of the axe more exciting than what was being done with it. Same things you usually do with an axe."
Fenris nodded at Artemis. "So not Page Six."
"Oh good," said Artie, looking marginally relieved.
Fenris shouldered his way between Isabela and Anders to get a better look at the axe. Anders handed it off to him, and Fenris hefted it, testing its weight. "It’s a well-made weapon," he said, nodding his approval. "If in need of some cleaning." He caught Artie’s amused glance.
"Should fetch a good price, either way," Izzy said with a shrug. "Or maybe we could show it to Varric and see if he’ll tell us his own version of the story." Her grin broadened. "I’m sure his version would be much more entertaining."
"And horrifying," muttered Fenris, shouldering the axe.
"I wonder how horrifying his stories are when he’s not talking about us," Cormac wondered, aloud, as he swiped the maps from his brother. "If we just get some special treatment because we’re — Ah!" He stopped talking and turned one of the maps around as he turned in a circle. "Well, I didn’t quite recognise it before, but this… is here. Weird. I thought this one was further up."
"I guess that sets the tone for the next ‘buried dead men’. How’s the treasure suiting you, so far?" Anders asked Isabela, as he kicked the pile of shattered bone around the wide spot in the road.
"I’ve seen better, but that’s just one of them. These are numbered. We’re missing at least one! I bet you if we follow them all, we’ll get clues to a proper treasure, a treasure fit for kings! Maybe even a king’s treasure. There’s been a lot of war in the Marches. A whole lot of lost history and hidden treasure out here." Isabela set forth, again, toward the cave. "Come on, we’ll dig up a few graves, bring the treasure back to the living, and burn the bodies so they can’t turn into horrors. It’s just taking payment for our service to the world!"
"She really can justify absolutely anything, if you give her a minute," Cormac murmured, following Izzy up the path.
"I suspect it’s the only reason she’s still alive," Anders sighed.
Fenris nodded. "Though I’m sure the knives help."