[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 308
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Orana ♀
Rating: T (L2 N1 S0 V1 D0)
Warnings: Friendly sparring, minor injuries, shirtless dudes
Notes: Another duel and an unexpected missive from within the Order.
"Who’s next? I’m sure I’ll get soundly pounded on, eventually." Cormac grinned and tugged Anders closer. "Or maybe just soundly pounded."
"Keep it up, and I’ll be the one pounding on you, Cormac," Bethany said, pointing her staff his way. "There are some things a lady does not need to see from her brother. Or hear."
"Your other brother is being just as bad," Anders pointed out, tipping his chin in the direction of Anton and Cullen, who were kissing each other like their tongues were tied together. They shuffled awkwardly towards the door without breaking contact.
"Yes," Bethany agreed, "but they are leaving for a more appropriate place to conduct such activities. Namely a place with a door."
"Since when has the door helped with us?" Cormac laughed, and Bethany stood up. "Oh, ah…"
She handed him his glaive, from where it leaned against the tree, beside her spear. "Let’s go."
Cormac grinned. "You think so? In that dress?" It was the dress, really, not her skill. The two of them were fairly evenly matched, most of the time, and Cormac was sure he should have been offended at being only on par with his youngest sibling, but he was just proud of her for keeping up.
"Cormac, the day my dress lets you win is the day we go back to fighting with magic," Bethany scoffed. "And you don’t want that, do you, brother dear?"
She looked so much like Artemis, when those words left her mouth, that Cormac’s face greyed. "We both know you always win with magic. It’s hardly worth the effort." He kissed Anders on the cheek and made his way onto the field, glaive a solid weight in both hands. He was grateful Anders was with them — his father had watched them duel, when they were younger, cleaning up after the strikes that landed too well. He had no doubt she’d get in a few good hits, which normally he wouldn’t mind, but without magic, that would offer him no benefit.
"Two silver says Bethany wins," Orana whispered to Anders.
"If they were using magic, I would never take that bet," he said. "But…" He shrugged, still evading a price.
"Forget the silver," said Orana. "If Bethany wins, you can do my cooking for one night." She grinned at the horrified look on Anders’s face. "Don’t worry. You’re a better cook than Messeres Artemis and Fenris, I’m sure, which is the important thing."
"How frightening for them," Anders drawled. "Fine. Bet’s on."
Bethany circled Cormac slowly, hands testing their grip on the spear as she watched him, barely blinking. Then she moved, viper-fast, spear feinting towards Cormac’s face before darting at his chest.
The broad swing of the glaive would have blocked either hit, and he angled it down the inside of her arm, for the return swing. Still, she knew him, after all these years, and instead of landing it against her neck, she ducked under his arm, broadsiding him with the butt of the spear, across his ear. He rocked with the impact, slamming the butt of the glaive into her hip, before turning to face her again, blade-first.
"They’re both very good," Orana observed, as they continued on in a swift series of long strikes, quick and precise. Cormac nearly forgot to dodge, a few times, accustomed as he was to his shields, but somehow he never got more than clipped, a few tiny slices along his upper arms. Bethany’s skirt gained a gash across the front, and she reminded Cormac that it was coming out of his pocket.
"They’re out of their minds. Those are bare blades." Anders’s eyes were wide. No matter how many times he watched them, no matter how many times he patched them up, this always made him nervous. One of these days, one of them was going to get seriously stabbed, and he could only hope he’d be fast enough to fix it.
Orana hummed, her brow knit in worry. "I have heard many people refer to the Hawkes as ‘out of their minds’, so… I’m less than surprised?" Goatilda’s hair was smooth under her fingers, and Orana wondered if Sandal still brushed her every day.
Anders wiped a hand over his face. "I just wish they didn’t insist on making the healer’s job difficult. If I start going grey, blame these two." A blade passed close enough to Cormac’s throat to make Anders flinch. That was it. He could feel the grey hairs forming.
Finally, Cormac blocked the spear across his sister’s chest, pinning it well enough for him to step in and knock her to the ground… he thought. But, as he closed the gap, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth, she raised one hand from the grip, unexpectedly and punched him square in the point of the jaw. His beard did not muffle nearly enough of the impact, and as his teeth clacked together, he saw the sky.
"Yield!" Bethany demanded, one foot pinning the glaive to his chest, the point of her spear tucked under his chin.
Cormac blinked stupidly. "Anders? I think I bit my tongue."
"I think I just swallowed mine," Anders replied, eyes round and mouth agape. He still looked dazed as he reached for his healing, and Orana tried to bite back her cackles.
"So what will you be cooking for dinner tonight, Messere Anders?" Orana asked, grinning from pointed ear to pointed ear.
"I… erm. How do Messeres Fartemis feel about cabbage salad?"
Bethany looked down her nose at her brother, pleased as a cat in the sun as she finally stepped back and allowed him to stand up. "Are you slowing down in your old age, brother dear?" She batted her eyelashes at him. "Maybe you should use a cane instead of a glaive?"
"I didn’t know you wanted to be spanked, or I might’ve," Cormac grumbled, pulling himself to his feet. "Leave the order for the dress on my desk. I’ll pay it when the bill comes in." He still looked a little grey around the edges as he made his way back to Anders. "Paying for my losses in sovereigns. That’ll teach me."
"You’d have paid as much for the win," Anders reminded him. "Just less… bloodily."
"One of these days, she’s going to stab me right in the face, and I hope you’re there to put it back on me," Cormac complained, resting his glaive against a tree, where Goatilda sniffed at the butt of it, displeased to discover it was not some new and exotic vegetable.
"Honestly, I was thinking I might stab you in the chest. Let some of the hot air out," Bethany laughed, turning to Orana. "Come show me what you can do with that pan?"
Orana opened her mouth to demur, when Bodhan appeared at the back door, holding a missive.
"I wouldn’t interrupt, Messeres, but this seems important. It’s a letter from Lady Selbrech. Apparently she requires some assistance, and quite soon." Bodhan held up the page.
He didn’t see Cullen and Anton still hovering by the doorway until Anton cleared his throat and held his hand out for the letter.
"Ah! There you are, messere."
"Selbrech?" Cullen repeated, brows knitting. "Not Ser Marlein?" He twisted to peer at the letter over Anton’s shoulders. "It is Ser Marlein. Why is she sending you letters?"
"Because I’m irresistible to the ladies," Anton said distractedly as he scanned over the letter. "And to templars. But… actually, I don’t think this letter was meant for me." He finished scanning the letter and peered up at Cormac. "I think you have an admirer. Should I write back to tell her where to send a goat?"
"A templar admirer?" Anders said, narrowing his eyes. At Cullen’s less than thrilled look, he added, "Not that that’s a bad thing. Depending on the templar."
"What? I’m … have I been making a show of myself lately? How drunk did I get at last week’s game?" Cormac laughed and crossed the garden to take the letter from his brother. After a few moments, he looked up, much more sober. "Cullen, what are the chances this is true? Because if this is true, you have a problem. If it’s not, I have a problem. Either way, there’s a very good chance this is going to end in you losing some men." Cormac offered the letter to Cullen, who studied it.
"I don’t want it to be true, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t," he said, shaking his head. "Are you willing to see to the problem? I need to go back to the Gallows and find out what’s happening. If she’s set this up, it hasn’t come over my desk."
"And that makes one wonder what else hasn’t come over your desk, since your little holiday downstairs," Anton observed, eyes narrowing. "She’s buried you in useless paperwork, so you’ll stop looking. She’s using your face to cover what she’s doing, because you’re the soft one. And if you’re not acting like anything’s wrong, you must have approved of her plans."
"I am not soft. I believe in the law and following the law. I have a duty to the people of Thedas — to the people of Kirkwall — and this is not it!" Cullen snarled, colour rising to his cheeks.
Cormac snatched back the letter. "I’ll take care of it. Anders? Anton? You two coming along?"
Anders already had his staff in hand. "What’s going on?" he asked, while Bethany and Orana exchanged puzzled glances.
"It looks like we have a problem," Cullen said. "But so might Meredith."