[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 318
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Aveline ♀, Seneschal Bran ♂, Meredith ♀
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Non-explicit past violence, accidental flirting, Bran is a badass
Notes: Meredith attempts to ‘reason’ with Seneschal Bran, regarding the templars being held in the Keep.
Aveline leaned in the doorway of the antechamber, the full suit of dress armour weighing down her limbs differently to the armour she usually wore, as she watched Bran organise books and papers into piles on the viscount’s boat-sized desk. He didn’t want this job, she knew, but he was good at it. He could bring down the word of law in minutes, and usually off the top of his head. All in all, not a man she minded working with. "You’re looking good, today, Seneschal. Did you dress up special for the Knight-Commander, or have you got something else going on, tonight?"
"Does your husband know you’re eyeing men old enough to be his father?" Bran joked, tossing a last stack of papers onto a particular pile of books, before changing his mind and moving them to another stack.
"You are not!" Aveline exclaimed. "I know you have a son, but …"
"You’ve never met him, have you? I sent him to study in Starkhaven, when the Qunari came, and he rarely makes it home, these days. He’s very caught up in the politics, there. He’s just a little older than the Champion, actually." Bran smiled and shoved out a chair by the corner of his side of the desk. "Come sit, so we can go over this one more time, before they come to set the dogs on us. I’m nearly the Commander’s age, and whatever she remembers about the way this city once was, so do I. Guylian… That was very sad, but he shouldn’t have gotten involved. Did no one any good, and it won’t do Meredith any good now."
"Guylian… I heard about that," Aveline said as she sank into the chair. "Never occurred to me that you lived through it."
Bran gave her a wry look over his — no, not his — the viscount’s desk. "Kirkwall has always been a turbulent place, but she is still standing. And, for some reason, I am still here. Now. These templars in your cell…"
"Attacked non-mage citizens of Kirkwall," said Aveline, folding her arms across her chest and sitting back in her chair, the image of defiance.
"While investigating mages, so they say."
Aveline huffed. "It’s their job to deal with mages," she said. "It’s my guardsmen’s job to police the city. The Order wouldn’t want us dealing with mages on their behalf, so they shouldn’t police the city on ours." Which felt a bit hypocritical if she let herself think about it, considering her association with a few mages.
"And these mages led them to Lowtown, somehow, which none of them see fit to explain, where no mages were captured and no observers report having witnessed magic." Bran rocked his chair back and rested his knee on the edge of the desk.
"And where they did not attempt to capture any mages, but assaulted three other members of the templar order, all of noble birth, endangering the surrounding populace to the point that the Champion’s family had to step in to help subdue them," Aveline ranted, gauntlet creaking and clanking as she banged her fist down on the corner of the desk.
"Hm. The fact remains that the targets of the attack are other templars, regardless of who their families are. But, they are lying about that. And unless they suspect that mages have infiltrated the Order, that’s going to be a hard case to make. This should be a matter for the templars to handle internally, except for the part where it wasn’t only these other templars who were attacked." Bran shuffled paper, until he found the reports he wanted. "Several of those present report that templar archers fired upon the Messeres Hawke, before the Hawkes engaged with them. Which would make this an assault on an uninvolved citizen of Kirkwall. Two of them, in fact."
A long pause hung between them, until Bran said, "Do you think she’ll accept a month of road repairs? We do need more work done on some of the mountain trade roads, and we wouldn’t have to pay them but food. Might also teach them to keep their weapons sheathed around our citizens."
"A month? Seems awfully lenient." Aveline narrowed her eyes at Bran, but the seneschal was unaffected.
"It’s a compromise," Bran replied. "Meredith wants them released last week. I am rather limited in my options. You say Knight-Captain Cullen has supplied their lyrium rations?"
Aveline’s scowl deepened. "Yes. Meredith can’t accuse me of any foul treatment." Though she was sure Meredith would try.
Bran nodded distractedly, thumbing through a few more files. He wondered if he could fit all of this in his office, just so he wouldn’t have to go back and forth. "Good. One less thing for her to latch onto."
He heard Meredith before she made it to the door, the heavy clack of her plated boots echoing down the hall. Just the sound filled Bran with dread.
"Ah, Seneschal. Perhaps you will see sense. You will release my men at once, and I expect to see your incompetent captain removed from service." Meredith spoke as she entered the room, crossing without so much as a glance at Aveline, to rest her gauntleted fists on the desk, as she leaned over it. "As I tried to warn you before, she is a corrupt simpleton, bent on destroying what little order can be kept in this city."
"And that order is not yours to keep, Knight-Commander." Annoyance flicked across Bran’s face, as he looked up.
"The defence of this city against magical threats of all sorts is in the hands of the Templar Order," Meredith snapped. "And abusing the law to stop my men doing their jobs is not your job or hers."
"Your men attacked three other of your men, all of noble birth, via ambush, in a residential part of Lowtown. The ambush was then extended to include two members of the Champion’s family and the Captain of the Guard. By now, you must be aware the Champion’s uncle, one Gamlen Amell, lives in that building, and that your men assaulted, without provocation, five noblemen and the Guard Captain, who were on their way to see the man, for varying reasons." Bran’s stare remained unflinching. "Unless you mean to tell me that you are sufficiently incompetent to have drafted three mages into the Order, I do not see magic as even relevant to this conversation." He paused, and cut her off, as soon as she opened her mouth. "And with no viscount, the law of Kirkwall is in my hands, and I entrust its execution to Captain Aveline Hendyr, who has done exactly as I would expect and far more mercifully than you have any right to, after your men endangered tens of citizens of this city in an unprovoked assault on other templars and unaffiliated nobles."
Bran watched her face darken to an unflattering shade of red, the muscles in her jaw straining against the roar of rage she undoubtedly wanted to unleash. Still sitting back in her chair, Aveline watched with a smug smile.
Before Meredith could sputter out another argument, Bran went on. "Now, I have the utmost respect for the Order, but attacking a citizen is a grave crime," he said, folding his hands over the desk. "I am, however, willing to be lenient this once. A month of road work for the templars in question is more than reasonable, don’t you think?" He smiled politely at Meredith, unaffected by her steely glare, at least as far as Aveline could see. "The road leading up to the keep could use some work. It is looking shamefully ragged. What do you think, Guard Captain?"
"Oh, I agree," Aveline said.
"Road work," Meredith said, dangerously calm. "You want my templars to do road work, while there are blood mages rampant in the city? After the qunari, I would think you’d want to be more careful of enemies within our walls."
"Do you not have other templars?" Bran said, brows knitting in mock concern. "I did not realise the Order was so small in number."
"There are never enough! My men are being slaughtered in the streets by abominations, apostates, and demons! And now you seek to deprive the people of Kirkwall of even more protection, for the sake of what? Appeasing the Champion? He is one man! He did nothing we could not have done!" Meredith roared, leaning further over the desk.
"Nothing we could not have done? Well, he did it before you even arrived. He may not have been in time to save Viscount Dumar, but he was plenty soon enough to save the rest of us, which is more than I can say for anyone else, that day." Bran paused, studying Meredith’s face. "Do not forget that I was there, when you were not." He picked up a stack of paper from atop a pile of books. "But, this is not about the Champion. This is about the laws of the city of Kirkwall, which I expect you and your men to obey, within the city. This is complete documentation of how the law applies in this instance, with full references. You will notice that I have been merciful in my decision. Your men will be repairing the trade roads, for the next month. What happens to them after that is your concern."
It was plainly a dismissal, but Meredith held her ground as she snatched the pages out of Bran’s hand. She still refused to acknowledge Aveline’s presence.
"Is there anything else I can help you with, Knight-Commander?" Bran said, coolly polite.
"This is outrageous," Meredith said, grip tight on the papers in her hands. "You are not the viscount of this city, and you do not have the authority to so command my—"
"You are welcome to ask for the viscount’s judgement on this matter," Bran said, "but I doubt his severed head will be forthcoming." There was steel in Bran’s stare too and in his words. "I have no desire to be viscount, Commander, and I pray that Kirkwall has another one soon, but in the interim, I am afraid that you are stuck with me and my decisions. So I ask again: is there anything else?"
Seeing the look on Meredith’s face, Aveline wondered if she was about to witness a murder.
"That will be all, Serah Cavin," Meredith’s spine straightened, and her chin tipped up. "The Divine will be hearing about Kirkwall’s failure to respect our Order."
"I look forward to hearing from Her Holiness." Bran leaned back in the chair, elbows resting on its arms, and folded his hands in front of his chest. He hoped Aveline would be fast enough, if he’d misjudged Meredith, but without another word, the Knight-Commander swept out of his office, looking anything but defeated.