[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 299
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Anders ♂, Natia Brosca ♀, Nathaniel Howe ♂, Temmerin Glavonik ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Dick jokes, nobody likes being underground, canon-typical violence
Notes: Justice is late to this party. Natia has opinions about explosives. Messere Howe is just gonna look dismayed and roll with all of this.
The rush of hurlocks came moments later, and Fenris held them off, at the bottom of the stairs, while magic, arrows, and grenades rained down from behind him. He reflected that it was a good thing he’d spent so much time in Tevinter, otherwise this might actually have disrupted his concentration. Darkspawn after darkspawn fell before them.
"Round two!" Nathaniel called, as more of them spilled through the same passage, but fire broke out on the stone, burning bright and hot, and nothing made it through.
When the flames died down, Anders leaned against the wall at the edge of the stairs, breathing heavily, lines of blue light crawling across his skin, where it was exposed, and Cormac was pressed tight against his side, holding him up and whispering in his ear.
"Well, that’s new," Nathaniel said, an arrow still nocked in his bow. He palmed the arrow as he approached his friend, his eyes a shade too wide. "Anders, why are you glowing?"
Anders drew in a breath, but the voice that answered wasn’t Anders’s. It was a familiar voice, a deeper voice that resonated in Nathaniel’s bones. "HELLO, NATHANIEL," he said, and when Anders opened his eyes, they were a molten blue.
Nathaniel staggered back, half tripping on a jut of rock. He held up a hand palm-out, shaking his head. "No. Oh no. Justice, you did not."
"I DID," said Justice. "I RECALL OUR CONVERSATIONS ABOUT POSSESSION. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MATTER STAYED WITH ME, BUT IN THE END, IT WAS NECESSITY THAT FORCED OUR HAND."
"My ‘thoughts’ on the matter didn’t involve using Anders as a host," Nathaniel said sharply. "Solona would kill you. Both of you. Likely at the same time since you so conveniently make only one target."
Justice’s voice changed, even if his eyes stayed blue. "Anders has some regrets," Anders admitted, "but is generally just happy to be alive. Things went bad. Then they went stupid. Then they went tits up."
"Yes, I gathered as much from the charred remains of half a forest you left in your wake," Nathaniel remarked, tartly. "Templars? Again? One would think they’d have given up."
"One would be mistaken. The templars believe themselves wholly above the law, and they dislike being thwarted," Anders replied. "And, if you want to get me naked, later, after we finish saving your friends, I’ll be happy to show you exactly how much giving up they didn’t do."
"Don’t tell me they cut off the—" Nathaniel looked ill.
"The flagpole’s right where you left it, slightly more used but in good condition." Anders’s smirk slid off as Justice pushed forward. "I DO NOT SEE WHY SOLONA WOULD BE UPSET WITH US. WE HAVE SURVIVED A GREAT INJUSTICE AND GONE ON TO FIGHT MORE OF IT. WE ARE, IF NOTHING ELSE, HEROES, DESPITE ANDERS’S DEVOTED LAZINESS."
"Humans require sleep, Justice," Cormac reminded him. "And food. And a good many of them are happier and healthier if they get laid, too, Anders included."
"DISTRACTIONS," Justice muttered, but he didn’t argue, not when he found his eye drawn to the lyrium elf off to the side. Fenris’s ears flattened against his skull when he noticed the scrutiny.
"Never a dull moment with you lot, is there?" Natia said with a strained laugh.
Nathaniel shook his head again, wiping a hand over his face. "Well, I’m glad you’re alive, Justice," he said. "If that’s the word for it."
"I HAVE A PURPOSE," said Justice. "THAT IS BETTER." He turned and headed up the stairs while Nathaniel was still trying to decide what to think.
There was a lone figure up ahead in the red glow, and the blue along Anders’s skin, in his eyes, faded away. Even from a distance, Anders could tell this was no darkspawn.
"Temmerin," said Nathaniel as they approached. A relieved smile broke over his face. "Good man! Are there any other survivors?"
"Master Howe," the dwarf replied, "you live." He looked tired, eyes bloodshot and face and beard caked with dirt. "As for survivors, hopefully up ahead." He pointed his thumb over his shoulder. He looked at Nathaniel’s companions and told them, "Well met are strangers in the belly of the earth."
Natia inched behind Cormac, ill-inclined to present her face to a dwarf who might never have seen the sky. Fenris picked it up, instantly, and moved closer, to shield her from view, giving no acknowledgement she was there at all, no reason to look.
"I hope Ser Fenley won’t mind, but I set up the explosives here and there. Figured I’d blow up as many of the ‘spawn as I could before I embraced the Stone.
"How’d you manage to get Qunari explosives?" Anton asked, examining one of the barrels.
"These aren’t Qunari explosives. They’re dwarven made, and don’t you forget it," Temmerin snapped.
"Temmerin’s cousin Dworkin made the explosives back in Vigil’s Keep," Nathaniel explained.
Anders rubbed the back of his neck and said nothing, the memory of the mad exploding dwarf clear in his mind. Dworkin had made powerful things, with no magic in them at all, and Anders often thought the dwarf was an excellent rebuttal to the ‘mages are dangerous’ argument.
"Aye, that he did," Temmerin agreed, "before the sodding Qunari forced him into hiding."
"What were you planning to do with the explosives, if not blow up darkspawn?" Cormac asked.
"We were intending to do extensive excavations around the entire thaig you found," Nathaniel said, looking over his shoulder at Cormac.
"A few well-placed ‘booms’ prove most efficacious at clearing rubble," Temmerin added.
"But, what about the structural integrity of the thaig?" Natia’s voice rose up from behind Cormac, and Temmerin looked surprised until she pushed her way between Cormac and Fenris. "An ancient structure, one that is, as I’ve heard, older than anything the Shapers have records of, isn’t going to have the kind of resilience, necessarily, as something only a couple thousand years old!"
"Only?" Nathaniel asked, squinting at Anders in amazement.
"Dwarves, Howe. They built the Vigil and they taught the Tevinter builders how to make a decent tower. That’s what she tells me." Anders shrugged. "But, ‘a decent tower’ is something that starts to give after a few centuries, and a proper dwarven build should stand for ten times that long."
"You were listening!" Natia smiled up at Anders.
"That’s why I said ‘well-placed’," Temmerin said, an edge to his voice. He folded his arms across his chest, sizing Natia up with a look.
"You’re saying it," Natia agreed, "but I don’t see it." She gestured at the barrels lined up by the wall.
"That’s because I’m a little more concerned with the integrity of my skin," Temmerin shot back, "and how many holes a darkspawn could punch in it. And I don’t need some casteless tart telling me how to do my job!"
"Who’re you calling a tart?" Natia roared. A hand on her shoulder and a pleading look from Anton kept her from punching the other dwarf.
Fenris cleared his throat. "Well, they say you are what you eat," he muttered, with a shrug.
Anders stood bolt upright, gaping at Fenris in feigned horror. "You take that back! Her mouth hasn’t been anywhere near me!"
Cormac slapped Anders with the empty box from the strawberry tarts and offered Nathaniel an apologetic eye-roll.
Nathaniel cleared his throat. "Temmerin, the way behind us is clear," he said pointedly. "I need you to send word to the Wardens in case we don’t make it."
Temmerin nodded, pulling his glare away from Natia. "Aye," he said. "I’ve set explosives all along the tunnels. Blow up as many of the sodding ‘spawn as you can. Luck to you lot." He patted Nathaniel’s arm on the way by and disappeared back down the tunnel.
"Well, this should be fun," Anders said with exaggerated cheer, looking around at the barrels of explosives and down the tunnel he knew was crawling with darkspawn. He could hear them, chittering like insects in the back of his skull. "Though if we time this right, we might not even need the explosives." He nudged Cormac’s shoulder with his. "Just past that bit of rubble, there. Think you can make it rain?"
Nathaniel trotted a little ways ahead, an arrow nocked in his bow.
"Just water, or you want me to scramble them a little?" Cormac asked, eyeing the length of the floor and counting.
"Scramble them a lot," Anders suggested.
"Follow me quick." Cormac winked at Anders and a storm rose up out of the stone, wind and rain and the deafening roll of thunder as the entire tunnel flashed a pale blue with lightning.
Before the thunder had died down, Anders chased the storm with a blizzard, freezing things inconveniently to other things, as the lightning cracked down again and again.
Natia laughed and looked up at Fenris. "Remind we why we’re here again?"
Fenris lifted an eyebrow without looking away from the stormy mayhem in front of him. "Because they can only do that about a dozen times without getting stupid and falling down."
Nathaniel blinked. "Maker’s aching balls, Anders, a dozen? What have they been feeding you?"
"Breakfast, lunch, supper, dessert, and some Hawke on the side," Anders joked. "And a fairly constant stream of exotic texts from places I don’t ask too many questions about."
"Should I be concerned?" Nathaniel asked, squinting side-eyed at Anders.
"It’s not blood magic," Cormac and Fenris replied, at the same time.
"Some of it’s several centuries old and Nevarran, though," Anders admitted, pointing to the ogre that pressed out of the frozen wreckage, looking none too steady on its feet.
"Death magic!?" Nathaniel looked horrified, but put an arrow through the ogre’s eye.
"What? No! There’s other magic in Nevarra! I just … know a girl who studies the death magic, and Cormac and I get everything else she finds." Anders grinned and kept pointing. "Ah, Fenris? You should probably cut that up, just to make sure it doesn’t get back up."
"Why does it always fall to me to cut things up?" Fenris complained, drawing his sword, all the same.
"Because you have something to cut things up with," Anders pointed out.
"Maker, I love having mages in the family!" Anton exclaimed, as the storms in the tunnel finally faded.
"You’re related to … who?" Nathaniel asked, looking at the rest of the group. The man looked more like him than anyone else.
"Me," Cormac answered.
Nathaniel looked back and forth between the Hawkes. "Aren’t you a little—"
"Don’t say it," Anton warned.
Nathaniel let his mouth fall shut but looked no less confused. With the roar of the tempest gone, the sounds of sword hacking flesh and Fenris’s grunts of effort filled the space.
"Oh, yuck," grumbled Natia, scrunching her nose and sticking out her tongue at the stink and the black ichor that pooled at Fenris’s feet. "I’m glad that’s not my job."
Fenris muttered a curse under his breath and kicked the corpse at his feet for good measure. "You get the next one," he said, pointing at Anton.
"What? Me? All I have are daggers and knives!"
"Then you’ll just have to work twice as hard," Fenris replied dispassionately.
"Keep it down," said Nathaniel, stepping over fallen darkspawn and heading deeper in. "There’s more darkspawn around and not far." Anders nodded.
"You know, as handy as that is," Anton said, "it still creeps me out that you guys can do that."
"Creeps me out too," Anders replied. "It’s like having spiders crawling over your brain." He walked his fingers up the back of Anton’s head, just to watch his shoulders scrunch and to hear him squeak. Anton swatted Anders’s hand away and had a knife out and ready, pointed warningly at Anders’s nose.
Nathaniel shook his head and did his best to ignore them, leading the group down another set of stairs and into an expansive room that made Natia gasp. She craned her head back, marvelling at the height of the columns and the intricate weave of stone overhead, and almost stepped on Cormac’s heels.