[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 298
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Anders ♂, Natia Brosca ♀, Nathaniel Howe ♂,
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Dick jokes, Warden jokes, nobody likes being underground, roughhousing, darkspawn corpses
Notes: Catching up with Messere Howe and all the latest Warden gossip.
A greasy figure in Warden armour shoved its way between two genlocks, both of them falling, bloody, behind. And as they came down, so did the ice storm, frost and snow whipping through the darkspawn. Cormac followed with a tempest, lightning leaping between weapons and armour, crashing across the horde. Fenris held them back, the huge Tevinter sword as threatening as it was damaging, and Natia and Anton vanished, only to return over the bodies of the fallen.
There were fewer than they had expected, really, and Anders looked around, expecting more to appear from some other niche in the stone. But, the pile of bodies stood deeper than just the ones they’d slain, and the rest were thickly spined with blue and grey fletched arrows.
"Well, Howe in the fuck have you been?" Anders asked, finally convinced they were out of immediate danger.
"Shut up," Nathaniel growled, reflexively, taking in the sight of his rescuers.
"Why, Howe, I’ve missed you too." Anders’s grin crawled higher as Nathaniel looked at him, mouth dropping open.
"Anders?" he finally said.
"Making friends as always, I see," Anders said, arcing an eyebrow at the piles of dead darkspawn.
Nathaniel’s expression softened to something dangerously close to a smile. "There’s no escaping you, it seems."
"I’m special that way."
Nathaniel huffed and shook his head. "That’s one way to put it," he replied, earning a smirk from Fenris. "The Warden-Commander said you were in Kirkwall. I wondered if I might bump into you, but I didn’t think it would be down here."
"It didn’t have to be down here," Anders said with a flat look.
Nathaniel shrugged one shoulder. "Warden business. You know how it is."
"So, your sister tells us you followed our expedition’s route," Anton cut in. "Why would you do that?"
Nathaniel’s eyes peeled away from Anders. "You’re the Champion of Kirkwall, aren’t you?"
"I am. And that’s not the answer to my question." Anton tried to lean on Fenris’s shoulder, but the elf sidestepped, and he staggered into Anders, instead.
Nathaniel shifted from one foot to the other as he checked himself for new wounds. "You went further into the Deep Roads than anyone believed possible. The First Warden, himself, ordered the investigation. I was offered a generous share of the salvage, plus extra coin up front, to discourage any … curiosity."
"And to think, they could have done that much more effectively and less expensively, by taking away your whiskey," Anders joked, healing finally coming to his hands, as he waved it over Nathaniel.
"You’re an ass," Nathaniel grumbled.
"I have an ass. A very attractive ass. An ass I’d be happy to remind you of the better features of, if we weren’t in front of strange dwarves," Anders quipped, stepping closer to make sure he hadn’t missed any wounds. "How bad—?"
"It’s not that bad." Nathaniel looked up and smirked. "Have you started wearing smalls, yet, or will we all be subjected to your flirtatious flashing?"
"My flirtations have become much more subtle and effective, I’ll have you know. I’ve used the Champion’s brothers for bookends." Anders sniffed haughtily, touching the corner of Nathaniel’s mouth with his thumb, before he stepped back.
"Wow, hello, the Champion did not need to know that about his brothers!" Anton announced, intently studying the surrounding area for more darkspawn. "Looks like you ran into some heavy resistance down here."
Nathaniel shrugged, bending to retrieve a few arrows from the darkspawn corpses. "After the Warden-Commander spared the Architect," he said, "we thought the ensuing struggle among the darkspawn might make the Deep Roads safer." With a grunt, he pulled an arrow free from a hurlock’s stomach. "The Warden’s allies assured us these tunnels would still be mostly clear. But it seems they were wrong."
"Looks like," Natia agreed. She narrowed her eyes at Nathaniel. "So these ‘allies’. They seem to know a great deal about darkspawn. Dwarves?"
Nathaniel traded glances with Anders and rubbed his forehead with the pad of his thumb. "No, not dwarves. It’s… complicated. Let’s just say we live in strange times."
"All right," Anton drawled, not sure what to make of that non-answer. He’d ask Anders later. "And who is the Architect?"
"Haven’t I mentioned him?" Anders asked with a pained smile. "Or have I only mentioned broodmothers and tentacles?"
Natia quirked an eyebrow at Anders. "Tentacles?"
Anders nodded, grimacing. "Tentacles. I’ll show you the scar later."
Nathaniel cleared his throat and answered Anton. "The Architect was the first of the speaking and thinking darkspawn. Very dangerous. He spread his ‘gift’ to other darkspawn — the disciples. Fortunately, their numbers are few."
"And speaking of the Architect, Howe, we need to talk about that, later. I expect you haven’t heard what we were keeping in the Marches. And by ‘we’, I mean the Wardens." Anders’s eyes were steady, his face a little too smooth.
"Have they spread up this far, already? I haven’t encountered any, down here…" Nathaniel glanced around, as if expecting to be beset by hurlocks intent on conversation.
"No, not them, but… Let’s just say the Hawkes discovered some exciting family secrets, up in the Vimmarks, and I am almost willing to guarantee the Architect is relevant to what we found. I don’t think he’s the only one of his kind, and I don’t think he’s what he says he is — or, he is, but in a very different way than we thought."
"Natia, stick your fingers in your ears," Cormac said, finally. "I can only expect that’s the problem, since the rest of us were there."
"Oh, fuck off," Natia replied. "I’m down here, tits deep in darkspawn corpses, and you expect me not to hear this? I’m not the only person in the room who’s not a Warden, and if this trip goes bad, I might end up one."
"Lady’s got a point," Cormac said, shrugging. "What he’s not telling you is that there was something imprisoned up there, and our dad helped with that, that all the books in that tower claimed was a darkspawn, and then some jackass let him out — to be honest, that might have been us, but we killed him — and he claimed that he was a Tevinter magister."
"Not just a magister," Fenris corrected, hand pulling out the medallion he always wore, "but one of the Seven, who claimed to have breached the Fade, itself. He called out again and again to Dumat, expecting an answer. This thing thought the Imperium still ruled the whole of Thedas, and it didn’t know about the Blights."
"And you think—?" Nathaniel recoiled, face bunched with confusion.
"It called itself Corypheus," Anders pointed out. "And it looked an awful lot like our friend the Architect, if a little less stylish."
Nathaniel blanched. "That can’t be right," he said, shaking his head.
"Maybe, but you know what else isn’t right?" Anders said. "Talking darkspawn. ‘Not right’ is the theme of the day!"
Dazedly, Nathaniel stowed away the rest of his arrows. "Does Solona know about this?"
"Ah. Not from us, no." Anders’s forced smile faltered. "Maybe I should send her a note."
Nathaniel nodded. "When we’re out of this shithole, you’re buying me a drink and telling me all about this."
"What?" Anders huffed. "We’re the ones who just came to your rescue. You should buy the drinks!"
"Speaking of this shithole," Anton interrupted, "I don’t remember drawing anyone a map to it. Who told you about the thaig?"
"An unfortunate dwarf named Bartrand," Nathaniel said.
Natia let out a dry laugh. "Good thing you boys got me and not Varric."
Nathaniel shrugged. "We weren’t sure his information was reliable, but contacting you or Varric was deemed risky."
"Really?" Fenris drawled. "You came down here on the word of an insane dwarf but talking to a slightly less insane dwarf or the Hawkes was ‘risky’?"
Anton hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "What the elf said."
"We feared you might return if you learned of our interest in the thaig," Nathaniel explained, looking awkward.
Anders’s hand shot out, and he grabbed Nathaniel’s ear. "Hey, asshole, guess what? We’re here."
"Ow, shit, get off! Anders!" Nathaniel turned into the hand and punched Anders in the crotch.
Cormac flinched as Anders crumpled, grip still as tight as it had been, pulling Nathaniel down with him.
"Don’t punch the healer in the junk. That’s not going to end well for you," Cormac suggested, looking at the pile of Warden at his feet.
"This blighted nug-fucker stabbed me in the tit. That didn’t end well for him either. Takes him a while to catch on." Anders rolled over, healing rushing through him as he pinned Nathaniel to the floor.
"Ended better for me than it did for you," Nathaniel shot back. "Now get off me. The rest of the expedition is still down here somewhere, and some of them might have survived. And they stand a much better chance of staying that way, if you quit bouncing in my lap, so we can go get them."
"It’s what happens when you touch my junk, Nate," Anders retorted. "You know that." Nathaniel shoved him off.
"We must go deeper into the tunnels," Nathaniel said, glaring at Anders and trying to regain his composure. He tilted his head at one passage. "That way."
"You know, this is just how I wanted to spend today," Anton said with a rictus grin, "playing hide-and-seek with Wardens in the Deep Roads!"
Anders caught up with Nathaniel as he led the way, bow in hand. "So who else is down here with you?" he asked. "Or… well, who might be alive, in any case?"
"A few new recruits," Nathaniel said, brows knitting as he went over a checklist of names in his head. "You never met them. Plus the dwarf…"
Anders grabbed Nathaniel’s arm. "Dwarf?" he repeated, eyes wide.
"Not Oghren, relax. I’m pretty sure we would have found him by the smell alone by now. Remember Dworkin? His cousin, Temmerin."
Anders only looked slightly less concerned. "So an explosive dwarf instead of an… explosive dwarf? Well, at least that should make him easier to find."
"Well, let’s go!" Natia slapped Nathaniel on the back as she ducked around him, her hand actually connecting with his ass. "We have survivors to find!"
"We should move. Stay alert for darkspawn." Nathaniel squinted in the blue lyrium-light of the chamber before them. "And stop taking lessons from Anders. My ass is there to hold my legs on, not for the squeezing pleasure of the general public."
"Pretty sure it can be both," Anders teased, following Natia down the stairs. He and Nathaniel both froze, halfway down. "They’re coming."
"That way." Nathaniel gestured with his chin as he nocked an arrow.