[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 309
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Aveline ♀, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Ella ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence
Notes: Troubles in the Order. Solutions by the guard.
Cullen swept into the Gallows, head up and eyes steely as he made for his office. He knew what Anton had meant when he’d called him ‘soft’, but that didn’t stop the word from chafing. Still, he’d rather be soft than be Meredith.
"Ella," he called out to the girl as he passed. "Meet me in my office."
Ella turned to look at him with blank eyes and unhurriedly started to follow. "Yes, Knight-Captain," she said with the flat voice of the Tranquil. The sunburst on her forehead was still a bright, inflamed red that Cullen couldn’t bear to look at.
Taking his seat, Cullen sifted through the papers on his desk. Not a word about hunting anyone but apostates, and he wondered at that — wondered if the ‘apostates’ had magic at all. Those he started setting aside, as Ella strode into the room and stood simple and still, blank-faced. "Close the door."
"Yes, Knight-Captain." Ella did as she’d been instructed, lifting an eyebrow at Cullen, as she turned back.
He nodded, waving her over, and she hurried to his desk. "How’s your face? I’m sorry about that, but it was the safest way."
"It’s fine," Ella told him, with a hint of a smile. "Thank Anders again, for me? That salve is wonderful."
"I’m so sorry," Cullen said again, unable to look her in the eye.
"Don’t be. You saved me. It’s just a little burn, and now I’m safe." Ella patted his hand and set down a stack of papers. "I’ve uncovered some letters from Val Royeaux that might be of interest. Just little things. You should know she’s arguing for Annulment. She hasn’t sent for it, but … she will. The arguments she’s made lead inevitably to that."
"I need you to find something else for me, today. It’s come to my attention that some of my men have been ordered to hunt down and murder those who disagree with the Commander’s positions. I need to know if the orders are hers, or if this is one of the Lieutenants overstepping their bounds. Obviously, I hope it’s one of the Lieutenants, but I have my doubts." Cullen finally looked up, grim, only to be met with concerned eyes, below the sunburst.
"I… wish I could say I didn’t think she’d go that far," Ella said quietly.
Cullen brushed his hair back from his forehead. "Me too, Ella." If Meredith kept going down this road, there would be a civil war on their hands. So soon after the Qunari invasion, Cullen didn’t know if the city would survive that. And the way they kept involving themselves in the city’s politics, he didn’t know if Anton or his siblings would survive that either. "If you find something, and I’m not here, have either Ser Keran or Ser Carver send for me. This is of the utmost urgency."
Ella nodded. "Of course, ser." Spying on Meredith was still daunting, and sometimes she feared the Knight-Commander would notice the way her hands shook and her cover would be blown. But, Ella reminded herself, it was no more dangerous than simply existing in Kirkwall’s circle, and it was good to be doing something.
Ella took a moment to school her face, to relax the muscles in her cheeks and forehead until her expression smoothed over again, eyes dull. "Good day, Knight-Captain," she said in a flat voice before leaving the office.
Cullen would never get used to how well she did that.
"Trust me," Anton told the pair of mages behind him, as he swaggered into Aveline’s office, dropping his hands heavily on the edge of the desk. "Three words for you, Guard-Captain: templar death squads."
"Not in my city. Is that how you’re greeting people, these days, Anton? I can’t say it’s quite as charming as your usual approach." Aveline leaned back, resting the tip of her quill on the rim of the inkwell.
"Yes, in your city. In Lowtown, apparently." Anton looked over his shoulder and held out his hand. "Give me the letter."
Cormac slapped it into his brother’s palm and nodded at Aveline. "We’ve got a leak in the Order. At this point, we’ve practically got plumbing in the Order, but the point is he’s not kidding. And it’s not mages, this time."
"This is bullshit," Aveline declared, skimming the letter Anton held out for her. It took barely a moment for her to rise to her feet, grabbing the gauntlets off the corner of her desk. "This is not acceptable, in my city. In my city, we all follow the law. … Except apparently you, Anton, and one of these days when Kirkwall can afford it, I’m coming back for you."
"Ah, but could you afford it, dear Captain?" Anton asked, a hand over his heart.
"I think I would manage."
It was depressingly easy to find the templars Ser Selbrech had written about. They didn’t hide their business, their armour gleaming and voices carrying down the deserted street.
Gamlen’s place was on the same street, and this sight, armed templars outside his door, was something Anton used to worry about.
"Maker, ser, have mercy!" wailed a young woman in worn clothing.
"You harboured a known apostate," the templar towering over her replied. He sounded bored.
The woman looked up at him with round eyes. "Wh-what crime is feeding my cousin?" she stammered. "She was whipped, half-starving."
Anton didn’t need to look over his shoulder to know that Anders had his eyes screwed shut, trying to force back their blue glow.
"It is a crime against the Maker," the templar sneered, stepping closer. She recoiled, backing into a wall. "The sentence is—"
"What is the sentence?" Aveline boomed, her voice ringing through the alley. Faces hidden by helmets turned in their direction. Anton slipped into the shadows while Aveline frothed with rage, drawing their attention. "Is this woman an apostate?"
"Goodness, ser," Anton purred, leaning against the edge of a shadow on the wall of the nearby stairs, "whatever would the Knight-Captain think? I’m certain he would not approve."
"The Guard Captain definitely does not approve," Aveline roared.
"She is guilty of harbouring an apostate!" the templar declared again. "It does not matter if the Knight-Captain or the Guard Captain approve. My orders come from the Knight-Commander, and this woman is to die."
"Where in the law does it say that? I am familiar with the laws of the Chantry and the law of Kirkwall, and I know of no such provision." Aveline’s shoulders squared, and she seemed to grow larger, the light behind her gleaming off her armour.
"It is the duty of the Knight-Commander to handle all disputes involving magic," the templar spit.
"The dispute involves no magic," Aveline reminded him. "The woman is not a mage, but a full citizen of the City of Kirkwall, and that makes her my problem, not yours. Put away your sword, Ser Templar. Now."
The templar raised his sword, defiantly, meaning to slay the young woman, before returning his attention to those who dared challenge him, but the grip of his sword was too hot to hold, and sweat suddenly sprung out on his face, as the blade fell from his blistering fingers.
"THIS IS NOT JUST." Anders’s eyes opened, the swirling blue spilling out across his skin, as the templar before them tore at the buckles on his armour, to get out of it before it seared itself into his skin.
His fellows backed away, uncertain. "Demon!" one shouted, bringing down a smite across the courtyard.
Cormac unshouldered his glaive. "Twice? Twice in one day with no magic?" he huffed in annoyance, but the strike seemed to have had no effect on Justice’s power.
The woman shrieked in horror, sliding along the wall to get away from the burning templar.
"Run," Anton told her, daggers already in his hands. "Go. Get somewhere safe."
He didn’t need to tell her twice. She ran down the alley as though demons were on her heels, and Anton supposed they might as well be. He darted in behind the templars while they tried to fend off Cormac and Aveline. One templar kept trying to throw smites at his companion, who had fallen to the ground, writhing and screaming, hands still scrabbling at armour that hissed and smoked.
The templars were spooked enough to be easy targets for the Hawkes and Aveline. By the time the burning templar had finished writhing, skin shrivelled and smouldering, his companions had fallen around him, blood staining the ground.
"That was pointless," Aveline said, voice hard. She shook her head at the dead templars. "I’ve had it up to my neck with these templars."
Blue still mixed with brown in Anders’s eyes as he shook his head, trying to rein himself in. Anton sheathed his daggers and looked around, making sure no one had seen that. In this part of Lowtown, he doubted anyone would talk if they did, not after the way the templars had apparently been treating them.
"Shh, hey, it’s all right." Cormac’s arm wrapped around Anders’s waist, easing Anders toward him, to face away from the charred corpse. "Come on, pretty thing. That’s enough glowing for one afternoon. Maybe some more tonight? Just you and you and me, behind closed doors? But, we’re standing in front of my uncle’s house, and I’m very sure he doesn’t need to see what your righteous blue glow does to me."
"You… you’re hopeless, Cormac." Anders laughed, breathily. "But, we’re both just as amused as usual that you still find this… well…" He pulled Cormac against his thigh and raised his eyebrows.
"Every time," Cormac assured him.
"Okay, so, as soon as the two of you are done being disgusting in the middle of the street," Anton called to them, from where he was investigating the contents of the corpses’ pockets.
"Says Lord ‘Dragon Noises’ over there," Cormac shot back.
"I’m going to kill our sister," Anton sighed.
"Kill yourself. You’re the one I heard yelling about it!" Cormac laughed, and Anton coloured.
"I’m still not as loud as you," Anton grumbled, standing up. "There’s nothing here. There’s no written orders, no letters, no indication of the chain of command."
"Man did say it was Meredith who gave the order," Anders pointed out.
"But, that just means he believed it." Anton shook his head.
"What a mess," Aveline sighed. She rubbed at the knot of tension in the middle of her forehead. "So what now? Whether Meredith gave the order or not, I’m not going to sit on my hands, waiting for something like this to happen again."
Anton pocketed the coins he slipped from the templars’ pouches. "Ser Selbrech brought this to our attention, and we have done what she wanted. The play is hers, now." Something caught his eye over Aveline’s shoulder, and he grinned and waved. Aveline turned to see Gamlen standing in his doorway, a half-empty bottle in one hand while his other sarcastically returned the wave.
"I hope you plan to clean this up," he said, gesturing at the dead templars with the bottle, before disappearing back inside.
"It’s good to see you too, uncle!" Anton called out. The door slammed shut. "Ass."