[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 300
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, Anders has some issues
Notes: How many ogres can you fit in a thaig? Our correspondents investigate.
"Shit," Cormac hissed, as more darkspawn filtered toward the centre of the room, from whatever they’d been doing along the walls. Judging from the smell, he didn’t want to think too much about it, but the storm was just as quick to his fingers as it had been before, and Anders’s ice storm was quick to follow. This room, though, was larger, and the storms didn’t stretch to all the walls, even offset like they were.
"A little help?" Anders asked, the floor under more of the darkspawn lighting up green, as they stopped moving forward. "Like shooting fish in a barrel, I’m told. I’ve heard you’re good at that. Do you still have that little wind-up bronto?"
"Of course I do. What kind of barbarian do you take me for?" Nathaniel replied, between shots.
Anders opened his mouth and then closed it again. "I’m just going to leave off on any comments about taking you as a barbarian, until we’re not up to our eyeballs in darkspawn."
"So, it is possible to teach you new tricks!" Nathaniel exclaimed, looking on in disgust as darkspawn began to implode, one after another. Better than exploding, he decided, after a moment, if only because the tainted blood didn’t spray across everything in the room. Not that he cared, but with four more people who weren’t Wardens…
Anton and Natia edged around the outside of the storms, the occasional flash of fire indicating where Natia had gone. After a few moments, Anton came racing through the centre of the room as the storm started to fade. "Hey, Cormac, come down here and get punched, again!" he shouted, as an ogre followed him, one huge slow step to every ten steps he took running, and closing almost as much distance.
Anders and Cormac moved at the same time, the ground glowing green and the ogre’s head lashing back for a moment. Neither seemed to hold it long, but Anton got a bit of a lead — enough that Anders felt comfortable greasing the floor under it. Cormac followed with a lightning strike, and the room burst into flame.
"Shit," Nathaniel breathed, grabbing Anders’s arm and pulling him around to face away from the flames. "Hold this," he told Fenris, as he aimed for the ogre’s eye. Eyes, he’d noticed, were the best place to hit large things. Sometimes, you could actually kill them, but you’d almost always make them blind.
The creature recoiled with a gurgling roar, head snapping back. Blinded it was.
Anton darted in while the ogre’s defences were down, hamstringing the already-crippled creature and darting away again, the heat from the flames making him sweat. It wasn’t until the ogre toppled over and he was standing triumphantly yards away that Anton took the grease on his boots into account. And that they were on fire.
Another arrow finished off the ogre while Anton hopped up and down, trying to stomp out the flames. "Andraste’s… flaming… boots!" he swore.
"What’s going on?" Anders answered, his eyes wild as he tried to read Fenris’s reaction. A reaction that looked like he was trying not to laugh.
"The darkspawn are dead," Fenris told him, his grip on Anders’s arm keeping him from turning around to look.
Anders tilted his head as though listening to something other than Anton’s swearing. "Yes, they are," he said, face smoothing over. "I hear them, but not nearly as close."
Cormac coughed. "We set the room on fire," he told Anders, as he swept ice across the room and up Anton’s legs. "We. Not you."
"Blight take you, Cormac!" Anton shouted back, stuck in an awkward position from being caught mid-leap.
"What— what are you doing to your brother?" Anders demanded, looking over his shoulder and Cormac’s to find Anton encased in ice from the knees down.
"Paying him back," Cormac retorted. "Next time don’t keep the keys, asshole!"
Fenris finally did laugh, this time, a broken, coughing sound, as he struggled not to, and Natia looked at them and then shrugged at Nathaniel.
"I don’t know. I’m not related," she said.
"I’d be a bit concerned, if you were," Nathaniel drawled. "Now, if magey fun-times are over, can we get back to the matter at hand?"
"Magey fun-times are just beginning, Howe," Anders teased. "And I don’t think I’ve got matters in hand, just yet, but if you step a little closer, I’m sure I can solve that deficiency."
"I haven’t seen you in almost seven years, and you’re still like this?" Nathaniel sighed.
"It’s just because I keep encouraging him," Cormac admitted, before flicking his hand and releasing the ice spell. Across the room, Anton tumbled to the ground, unceremoniously.
Anton was back on his feet a moment later, dusting himself off primly and brushing his hair back into place. "Not my most graceful moment," he admitted. "And if Varric asks, this never happened, I landed gracefully after incapacitating a mighty ogre, and I was never on fire." He stomped his feet again, this time trying to regain some feeling.
Nathaniel looked at them all like they were idiots.
"If anyone else asks, however, we can tell them whatever we like," Fenris replied with a fierce smile.
"We can even tell them to tell Varric," Anders agreed, healing light rushing to his fingertips and curling around Anton’s ruined boots. Some of the tension eased from the corners of Anton’s eyes.
"In case there was any debate, you are both assholes," Anton informed them amid Natia’s snickering. "Which, I suppose, explains how you each ended up with one of my brothers." He saw Anders purse his lips against a smirk and sent him a flat look. "Assholes and my brothers. I know. Don’t say it."
Anders pursed his lips harder and held his hands up, palm out, in surrender.
"Right," Nathaniel muttered, rubbing the corner of one eye. "I don’t see any survivors in here. What about that side room?" He pointed with his bow.
The smirk left Anders’s lips when he recognised it.
Cormac’s eyes followed Anders’s glance. "I’m not going in there. I’m not going in there and neither is he."
"What are you—" Fenris started, and stopped as soon as he realised where they were. "Bartrand is not here," he grated, but he didn’t sound any more thrilled at the idea.
"I don’t really want anyone else picking up that red lyrium shit and getting any funny ideas," Cormac said, shaking his head. "Pheasant on the counter funny, not haha funny."
"The door’s not even open," Natia started down the stairs. "What’s in that room?"
"We were," Anton answered, boots momentarily forgotten.
"Of course you were, that’s why you know what’s in there." Natia glanced over her shoulder at the unmoving line behind her and then at Anton still standing just as stiffly as he had been while frozen, in the middle of the room.
Nathaniel followed Natia down. "Whatever it was, I’m sure it’s gone now, or you wouldn’t be standing here."
"Bartrand locked us in that room," Anders finally said, looking a little paler, the shadows in his face more obvious. "Packed up the expedition and pulled out. He laid hands on an idol we found — not a paragon. Not even a dwarf. I don’t know what it was. But, he touched it, and took it with him. Barred the door behind him."
Nathaniel slowed to a stop in front of the heavy door. "I did hear he was a bit of a shit," he admitted. "But if there are Wardens in there? I’m getting them out. The rest of you can stand there, if you like, but I’m going to open this door."
He palmed his bow and an arrow with one hand and tugged open the heavy door with the other. There would be no element of surprise if there were any darkspawn inside, not with the way the door groaned as it opened. Natia ducked under his arm and peered into the room, eyes growing wide. She scrambled, trying to shove the door back.
"Close the door!" she said. "Close the door!"
The door ground shut, and Natia held it there.
"What?" Nathaniel asked. "What’s in there?"
"No Wardens that I could see," Natia said, eyes still round. "But more darkspawn." Nathaniel nodded, unsurprised. "More ogres." She gave Nathaniel a pained look.
"Ogres? Plural?" Anton repeated. "As in, more than one ogre inside that room? Maker. My boots can’t handle all this abuse."
"Then maybe you shouldn’t step in it this time," Fenris drawled, reaching for his sword automatically.
"Nothing walks out of that room," Cormac said, shaking his head. "There’s a passage out the back. If anyone was in there, they’re either dead or gone, but nothing comes out this door alive, unless we invite it."
"There could still be—" Nathaniel started.
"There are multiple ogres in the room. Anything that was alive and continues to be so is either a darkspawn, or it’s gone out the back. And the ogres probably won’t fit out the back," Cormac assured him. "I know. We went that way. It was not a spacious passage."
"You know, speaking of spacious passages," Anders started, with a grin a little too broad.
"Are you just incapable of being serious?" Nathaniel snapped.
Anders’s face turned grim. "Howe, that’s not fair, and you know it."
"What I know is that there were eight Wardens, when we came down here, and now there is only one."
"Two," Anders reminded him, strain obvious on his face, as blue light danced around the edges of his eyes. "And I’ve been down here, before. Cormac’s right. If they were in that room, they’re either out or they’re dead. There’s no reason for them to still be in a room with ogres distracted enough to be concerning themselves with us."
Finally, Nathaniel nodded, eyes locked on the floor. "I know you’re right. I don’t want you to be right, but you are."
"We can check the tunnels behind, after the ogres are out of the way," Natia pointed out. "But, we do have to get the ogres out of the way. Suggestions?"
"Burn them." Cormac’s voice was tight. "Run grease under the door and set fire to the entire room."
"No," Anders said, hands curling close to his chest. "No, no, no. You can’t. You can’t burn them if they have nowhere to go. If you burn them and they run toward us, that’s their fault. If you burn them and they run away, they’re smarter than I thought. You can’t burn them if they can’t run. Can’t do it. Can’t."
"Anders, sweet thing, they’re darkspawn," Cormac replied.
Anders looked up, one eye blazing blue and the other one getting there. "I’ve been on fire. Trapped by fire that shouldn’t have been mine. You—" And then the other eye went. "CAN’T," Justice finished, unsure why he’d kept speaking.
"Freeze ’em and squeeze ’em?" Anton suggested, stepping back and pulling Natia with him.
"Can you keep it outside the stone? I don’t want to damage any of the carvings," Natia chimed in.
"If I can use it to take a golem apart, I can also make sure I don’t do that," Cormac assured her.
"Anders," Nate said, quietly, his eyes coming up to meet the blazing blue ones above. "Justice, they’re darkspawn. They destroy. They do nothing else. And I have to assume they killed seven recruits. I don’t give a shit what happens to them, as long as they’re dead."
Justice stared back at Nate for a long, breathless moment. Looking into Justice’s Fade-blue eyes was like staring at the sun, until finally Anders squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "They’re just darkspawn," he agreed, reassuring himself, but he still couldn’t reach for fire as an option.
Nate nodded and reached for the door again, his hand on the handle as he looked Cormac up and down. "I trust you know what you’re doing?"
"I do. Ogres and I have a history. I can do this." Cormac grinned and readied a spell. First ice. They’d both lay down ice until everything stopped moving, and then he’d start busting heads. Literally.
"You have a history of getting punched in the face by ogres!" Anton complained.
"Ogres aren’t the only things that like to punch him in the face," Fenris replied, sword resting on his shoulder. "Or that like to try, anyway."
Natia looked horrified. "But it’s such a nice face," she said in a loud whisper. A strangled sound caught in Anton’s throat.
Nathaniel shook his head. "Right. Places, everyone." The door groaned open a second time. The ogres were waiting, but so were the mages, ice leaping from their fingertips, hitting the hurlocks and ogres and spreading over blighted skin. The hurlocks froze while the ogres slowed, mouths open in a roar and spittle freezing on their lips. More ice and more, until Anders’s fingers started to burn, and finally the ogres slowed, slowed, and stopped, one clawed hand almost at the door.
Cormac switched spells as Anders pressed a potion into his hand. He didn’t have to aim as well for the ogres — they were a hard target to miss — so he grabbed and crushed, pouring the potion down his throat as he waited to feel them crumple. That was something that had been happening for a long time, but the older he got, the more intense it was — the feeling in his hand of squeezing whatever he’d caught in Crushing Prison. The first skull burst, and he moved on, leaving the ogre’s body supported by the ice. The hurlocks went quickly, so many short pops, and then the second ogre, caught at the back of the room.
"One more," he told Anders, as he lost his grip, and the thing started to shake off the ice. "Hit it one more time."
"I don’t—" Anders started, but Justice batted him aside and complied, the ice somehow both more dense and thicker than when Anders had been casting, a perfect structure that reflected and diffracted like a gem.
The second ogre’s head folded in, and Cormac let it fall as a ball of bone and mush, which splashed across the floor. He turned to Nathaniel. "If any of yours were in there and alive, the worst they got from us is frostbite."
The twitch of Nathaniel’s lips didn’t quite qualify as a smile, but he seemed pleased. Fenris shouldered past him through the door, sword at the ready in case they’d missed any darkspawn. He blocked out the memory of that door shutting behind him, even though a part of him itched to look over his shoulder to make sure it was still open.
"Well. Here is a good argument for shoes," he said, tiptoeing around shards of ice and frozen darkspawn. Nathaniel followed close behind him, but neither of them saw movement. Slowly, Fenris eased the point of his sword down to the ground. "If any of your companions are alive, they are not in here." He gave Nathaniel a sympathetic look. "I am sorry."
Nathaniel nodded, his face grim and closed off. "And the tunnel?" He tipped his head at the chamber’s back door, and a chill swept down Fenris’s spine that had nothing — or little — to do with the ice he was standing on. The lyrium idol had been up those stairs, laid on that altar.
Natia cleared her throat, boots crunching as she ambled past. "Why don’t we have someone with shoes check that out?" she suggested, offering Fenris a wink. Nathaniel followed her.
"Keep in mind, that tunnel leads to the surface," Cormac called out, making no move to enter the room. "And for the love of Andraste, don’t touch anything red!"
Nathaniel waved a hand behind him, unconcerned with the warnings. "There are no more darkspawn. Not here, not near here… there’s nothing to worry about."
"THE SOULS OF THE DWARVES WHO ATE THEIR GODS," Justice called after him, not particularly needing to raise his voice to be heard.
"Dwarves don’t have gods," Nathaniel said, glancing at Natia, as he turned back around.
"I dunno. We didn’t have gods in Orzammar. Just the Paragons and the Ancestors. Everything returned to the Stone, they said. I mean, I guess if you’re not from around there, the Stone could sound like a god, but that’s just stupid." Natia shrugged. "Ate their gods?"
"THERE IS AN OLD CORPSE IN THAT TUNNEL, AND ON IT ANTON DISCOVERED A COPY OF AN OLDER INSCRIPTION. IT SPEAKS OF THE PROFANE, WHO CONSUMED THEIR GODS, BECAUSE JUSTICE COULD NOT BE DONE FOR THEM. DWARVES. I COULD NOT HEAR THEM, AND IF I COULD, COULD I HAVE COME TO THEM?" Justice looked almost sad, which was an unusual cast to that face, with the eyes lit blue. "THEY ASSAULTED US. I KNOW NOT IF WE SLEW THEM ALL, BUT WE SLEW THE DEMON WHO DROVE THEM TO MADNESS. SOME MAY STILL REMAIN."
"He’s not kidding!" Cormac pointed out, and Fenris nodded.
Natia and Nathaniel exchanged another look. "I don’t know about you," she said, "but the ogres were all the excitement I needed today. Though I admit to being curious."
"I am not," Nathaniel grumbled. "I just want to find those recruits and go home."
They searched the tunnel but tried to stay within ear-shot of the others. Red lyrium lit the way, and they scrutinised the walls, the floor, but could find no sign of anyone passing through there recently.
"Dammit," Nathaniel muttered, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. The tunnel forked up ahead, and any more wandering was bound to get them lost. "Dammit, dammit." He was used to losing his fellow Wardens, but only one survivor out of eight? And he was the senior Warden on this mission. "This is not my day," he said wryly, for Natia’s benefit.
She offered him a half-smile. "From what I’ve heard about how long you’ve been down here, I’d say it’s not your month."
"My month, my year, my lifetime…" Nathaniel laid a hand across his cheekbones and squeezed, before shaking his head. "And now I have to tell Solona that I lost them, and I’ve only found two corpses."
"But, you didn’t find five more, which means they probably got out," Natia reminded him.
"Or they got more lost in here, and they’re going to starve or get eaten by dead dwarves who had gods," Nathaniel retorted. "Can’t you… I don’t know, do something dwarfy? Figure out which way they went?"
"Not down here. Not with the ground like this." Natia shrugged. "I’d be able to tell you if they were dwarves, but they’re not. I don’t know what they’d do. What would Wardens do?"
"Doesn’t matter. They haven’t been Wardens long enough to know." Nathaniel shook his head. "How the fuck does Solona do this?"
Awkwardly, Natia reached out and patted Nathaniel’s arm. She’d only just met the man and didn’t know the proper way to console him in this situation. Or any situation. "I doubt she finds it any easier than you do," she said. Which was a guess, really, but how could anyone find this sort of thing easy? "Look, let’s head back. There’s not much we can do for them right now, if they’re alive, but if the idiots behind us got out of here, then they know where these tunnels end up. We could always look there."
Nathaniel considered that and nodded. It was something to do, at least, that didn’t involve standing here and mentally flailing. "Right. But if Anders makes another joke about ‘tunnels’, I can’t be held responsible for my actions." He turned around before he could talk himself out of it.
"Well, you heard Anton," Natia said. "He’s a bit of an asshole. And I assume assholes would be experts on tunnels."
Nathaniel slowed to a stop just to give her a horrified look. Natia smiled sweetly up at him.
"You said if Anders made tunnel jokes," she reminded him.
"Definitely not my year," Nathaniel muttered.