[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 321
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Varric ♂, Isabela ♀, Fenris ♂, Merrill♀, Anders ♂, Carver Hawke ♂
Rating: M (L2 N0 S0 V3 D1)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, vomit, blood magic, Fenris has issues
Notes: It must be Tuesday, because we’ve got blood mages in Hightown.
Some more questioning, and Aveline wrung the location of ‘the Bleeder’s’ lair from their new friend. An abandoned home in Hightown, one Aveline walked by nearly every day, and she could kick herself for not noticing any suspicious activity around it. Then again, this was Kirkwall. Everyone and their neighbour had skeletons in their closets.
Varric decided that the best way to face a blood mage was with another blood mage. Preferably a blood mage on their side, and Varric only knew one of those. Fenris was well into his first bottle by the time Varric was knocking at Merrill’s door. Isabela helped keep him on his feet — whether he needed the help or not — with an arm around his waist. Well. Except that was a bit lower than his waist.
"Hello? Hello!" Merrill poked her head out the door, face brightening at the sight of the group. "What brings all of you here? Oh, I didn’t miss Wicked Grace night, did I? What day is it? Is it Tuesday?"
"That it is, Daisy, and we’ve got a typical Tuesday problem we could really use some help with." Varric smiled a little wider than the situation warranted. "I’ve got this friend, and some really unpleasant people just broke into her shop and messed the place up, and after a little … strategic inquiry, we found out they were sent by a real baddie. So, we’re going to go pop his head off and leave it on the mantel. Only one problem. He’s a really powerful blood mage, and I’d rather not have to clean up after any exploding eyeballs, on our side. And I thought to myself, who better to stop this guy than our very own Daisy and her very special Dalish knife-magic."
"It’s not knife magic, Varric, it’s — OH! Yes, of course. Knife-magic." Merrill nodded, looking back into the house. "Carver? Varric wants to borrow my knife-magic for a couple of hours. You should come too. It sounds like the kind of thing you’d be very good at."
"At least Varric knocks!" Carver called out from the bedroom. "If I’m putting pants on, do I need to put on fancier pants? Metal pants? What kind of ‘something I’d be very good at’ is this?"
"Metal pants!" Anders suggested. "It’s very much a metal pants occasion!"
"We could use your swording!" Isabela called over Merrill’s shoulder. "The kind of swording with metal pants. And then later the kind of swording with no pants." She winked at Merrill, who giggled.
Fenris shook his head. "I have no desire to see Carver’s pantsless swording, thank you," he slurred. "Though now I know what my nightmares tonight are going to be."
"Or you could stay up all night and skip the nightmares," Izzy suggested, squeezing Fenris’s ass.
"He has a husband for that, Izzy," Varric reminded her.
Eventually, Carver shuffled out of the door in full plate, eyeing the group balefully. "Blood mage," he sighed. "He’s not in the sewers, is he? I swear every time one of you asks for my help, I end up in the sewers."
"The only thing in the sewers tonight is Izzy’s mind," Varric said, pointing his thumb at her over his shoulder. "This is a classier blood mage, it turns out. Come on."
Arriving at the house, Varric took a moment to study it. The front windows were lit, but Carver couldn’t get a clear view into anything but the entrance hall.
"Looks kind of like your place," Carver said to Fenris. "Two doors to get in. No guards in the entry. But, there’s three more doors into that hall, so we’re sitting ducks, if anything realises we’ve come in."
"Sneaky way in, or do you want to go straight down the middle?" Varric asked, rubbing his chin.
"If it’s like Fenris’s place, the main hall’s going to be huge. Two staircases, a balcony… The whole house lets out into that room." Isabela leaned Fenris against a wall, and he slid down it, crossing his arms atop his knees. "And I think we’re leaving Broody out here."
"I do not brood," Fenris insisted, still a little tippier than he’d meant to get.
"Do we need to take him home, so he doesn’t get hurt?" Varric asked. "It seems like the kind of thing we should do before walking in there."
Anders sighed and pressed a bottle into Fenris’s hand. "Drink that, wait a minute, go take a piss. We’ll be here."
"Am I gonna end up buying him another bottle?" Varric peered around Anders’s hip. "I’m gonna end up buying him another bottle. Drunks. So expensive."
Anders rested his elbow on the top of Varric’s head, as the elf considered the potion. "Not as expensive as Wardens. Trust me. I’ve known some of those."
"And here I thought you’d be a cheap date, Blondie," Varric said as Fenris downed the potion. Izzy steadied him when he leaned too far back.
"Not cheap," Isabela rebutted. "Perhaps a bit overpriced, even. Still worth it though."
"Overpriced?" Anders protested, straightening to turn a look of betrayal her way.
"What? I said it was worth it!"
"This is why I drink," Fenris whispered to the empty vial in his hand. He tilted his head then, an ear canting out and a funny look crossing his face. "Right. There’s another step after drinking this. I am urgently reminded."
Fenris padded around the corner, out of sight, and soon they heard the splash of liquid on stone.
Carver shook his head. "This is what being married to my brother does to people."
"People?" Merrill asked, head at an angle. "How many people is Artie married to?"
"Just the one," Carver answered before worry furrowed his brow. "As far as I know, anyway. Depends on how drunk he’s been getting, I suppose."
"Not that drunk," Fenris assured him. He reappeared, looking more clear-eyed and somehow even less amused.
"So, how do we go in?" Varric asked again.
"Straight down the middle," Fenris offered, grimly. "Carver and I go in first. Why did no one bring Cormac on this expedition? I’m certain shields would not go amiss."
"Sorry, Broody, but Cormac’s got his own… whatever he’s doing. Not Anders, obviously." Varric shrugged. "So, we’re leaving an open door behind us, in a room that empties to the rest of the house?"
"Not for long, it won’t. Not if I have anything to say about it. It’ll take a locksmith or a battering ram, when I’m done." Isabela smiled and jingled a ring of tiny tools.
"Why do I always have to go first?" Carver asked, a step shy of whining.
"Probably because you’re the guy with the platemail, Junior," Varric reminded him. "You getting this door, Rivaini, or am I?"
"Step aside, sausage fingers." Isabela nudged Varric out of the way and crouched to consider the lock, and Anders stepped behind her, pulling Carver with him.
"Look casual," Anders advised.
"Oh sure," Carver snarked. "I’ll just casually stand here in my casual plate mail, casually about to fight a blood mage and his crew. Typical Tuesday."
"The youngest Hawke whined to his stalwart companions," Varric said in his story-telling voice.
Carver pointed at Varric. "Don’t you start with that again."
"He told the handsome dwarf," Varric continued. "…as he scowled and reached for his sword."
Isabela snapped her fingers to get their attention, and Carver’s hand stilled on his sword’s hilt. "Door’s open, boys. You can show off your swording later, Carver. And I hope you do." She winked, and Merrill giggled.
"I really should start using a different weapon," Carver muttered, drawing his sword.
"Isabela would find puns for that too," Fenris assured him, positioning himself just behind Carver as Isabela pulled the door open.
The entry hall was empty as expected, and Isabela moved to jam the side doors, before Varric whipped open the next door, and Anders lit the floor in green and followed by lashing a stun across the room, as Fenris and Carver charged in, swords flashing in the light. The reaction was good, but the room was huge, and Anders hadn’t hit the archers in the back. Archers, inside? That was a bit much, but it looked like they’d interrupted some last meeting before a raid of some kind. Maybe another strike on the shop.
Toward the back of the room, one figure raised a knife, and opened the side of his forearm, but Merrill was quicker, and the vines rose up out of the floor, as presumably Jake, since he was bleeding, was still trying to cast. Carver took off a couple of heads and laid down a smite, as soon as he could reach, but not before the spell exploded through him, in a flash of heat. His blood felt as if it had curdled, and he dropped to the ground, sword slipping through his fingers.
Anders was on him in seconds, flooding Carver with healing, while Merrill’s vines captured and incapacitated the blood mage.
And all this, amid a hail of arrows that suddenly stopped, when Varric got a clear shot at the back of the room.
Jake reached for another spell, eyes wide and wild as he gestured, but not so much as a spark left his fingers. Fenris stalked towards him, sword at his side and reached through his chest in a flash of blue light. He held the mage’s heart in his hand, when Varric’s voice cut through to him.
"Hey, Broody! Wait!"
Fenris stilled, feeling Jake’s heart pounding against his fingers. Jake’s eyes glazed over in pain or shock, and his fingers twitched helplessly at his sides.
"I’d like to ask the man a few questions," Varric said, "before you rearrange his organs."
Vines sprung up all around as he spoke, Merrill holding Jake’s remaining compatriots in place for Isabela to finish off.
"The smite will wear off soon," Fenris warned Varric, still not pulling his hand free.
Varric glanced back at Carver, who was wobbling to his feet. "Then we can toss ‘im another. Right, Junior?"
"I hate you," Carver groaned.
"That’s a yes," Varric assured Fenris, before returning his attention to the now much less self-assured blood mage. "So, I’m going to assume you’re Jake the Bleeder, since I was told a Jake the Bleeder lives here, and you’re bleeding all over this lovely tile floor. It came to my attention that a certain gentleman of that name was interested in some of my property. Property that is not for sale or trade. As it’s a rather serious piece of property, I’ve got an interest in your interest, and more than that, in who told you I might have it."
"Who the fuck are you?" Jake panted, still trying to get a grip on the reality in which he’d been assaulted with vines in his own home.
"Ah, that would help, wouldn’t it. Varric Tethras, Deshyr to the Dwarven Merchant’s Guild." A slow smile crossed Varric’s face. "I’d offer you my hand, but I don’t think you’re in a position to shake it."
"You have it, then! The Pride of Kings!" Jake’s eyes grew wild and bright.
"I certainly have something, but I don’t think I’ve heard that name before. Where’d you hear about it?" Varric asked.
"That’s between me and my partner," Jake insisted, shaking his head as if there were gnats in his face.
"Oh, a partner? You have a partner? How nice." Varric was getting a headache. How many idiots were after that shard?
"Another blood mage, I assume," Fenris growled. His fingers tightened, just a hair, and Jake’s whole body jerked. Fenris tried not to think of all the times he’d held Artemis’s heart like this, if much more gently.
Jake choked, before hacking out a laugh. "You know nothing," he said, voice strained.
"Actually, I know a surprising number of things," Varric said. "Carver’s tell during Wicked Grace, for instance. The colour of Isabela’s underwear."
"Everyone knows that," Fenris said. Merrill and Carver nodded.
"Just as everyone knows you’re not wearing any," Varric countered. "But, Jake, you know what else I know? I know that you’re not leaving here alive unless you tell me who this partner of yours is." Varric shrugged and pretended to examine his fingernails. Through his glove.
"I’m probably not leaving here alive anyway," Jake reasoned. "If I tell you, he’s going to kill me. If I don’t tell you, he’s going to kill me. I was going to be the King of Kirkwall…"
"See, the problem with that," Anders pointed out, "is that Kirkwall has a viscount, not a king."
"It would have a king, if I were king," Jake shot back.
"I’m still confused that you’d want to be king of a place like this… I mean, it’s Kirkwall, for Andraste’s sake. An important trade port, but full of demons and assholes."
"So, you know the demons of Kirkwall," Jake panted, trying to get that tight feeling in his chest to loosen up. Of course, it was a hand, so that didn’t work so well. "Were you going to be king? Did you fail him? Is that why it was so easy for me?"
"Shit," Varric sighed.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Carver groaned. "Can I go a week in this city without something ending in demons?" As an afterthought, he slapped another smite on Jake, just to be sure.
Merrill listened quietly, thoughtfully, and shook her head. Fools like this were why it was so difficult to get people to trust her. "This… partner offered to make you a king?" she said. "In exchange for the shard?" And that word was important: king, not viscount. Her brows knit as she looked up at Carver. "That sounds like a pride demon." Desire was another possibility, to be sure, if the man desired to rule Kirkwall, but the way he talked about kingship…
Carver groaned again, tipping his head back to stare up at the ceiling, shaking his head at it as though he could see the Maker watching them and laughing. "Pride demon. Had to go all out, didn’t you, Jake?"
Fenris adjusted his grip, and Jake grinned through a grimace of pain, a flash of yellow teeth in the torchlight.
"So where did you meet this delightful friend of yours?" Varric asked. "Somewhere in the city, I imagine. Though the worst of the demony bullshit I’ve encountered has been underground. Of course. Is it because I’m a dwarf? Because I promise you, I am not a fan of being underground, dwarf or not."
"He calls to me. Speaks in dreams." Jake’s grin remained.
Merrill nodded. "Once you speak to them, they know you. They reach out for you. But, where did you find him?"
"In a pool of blood. My blood. Right here in Hightown. He’s stronger here. Louder in the plaza in front of the Amell place. All I have to do is get the Pride of Kings, and he’ll make me king of Kirkwall. All I have to do is get it, and he’ll tell me what to do."
"The Amell…" Carver froze. "What the fuck did you do, Anders?"
"Don’t look at me! If there’s a demon anywhere near that house, it is very much not talking to me." Anders sorted through his recent recollections and Justice’s. "If there’s a demon there, we can’t hear it."
"The demon, assuming that’s where it is, is probably very old, Carver. It’s possible Serah the Bleeder is freeing it." Merrill paused. "That doesn’t sound right. Did I say that right?"
"Hall," Jake filled in, reflexively, giving Merrill a strange look. "Serah Hall."
"Oh! Thank you!" Merrill smiled at the man, vines still holding him tightly.
"But, if it already has a partner, it may just not be looking for anyone else, until it gets out. Until it’s stronger." Merrill shrugged.
"That is not reassuring," Fenris murmured. He didn’t live there, but that was still closer than he needed any demon to be. Especially a pride demon. Especially after his last experience with pride demons.
"So how do we find the thing?" Varric asked Anders in an aside.
Anders blinked back at him. "What? Do you think I have a special demon-sense?"
Varric gave him a flat look, and Anders sagged.
"Well… yes, I — Justice — can sense them if they’re around and want to be found. But it’s not like I can draw a map to a specific demon!"
"So, what?" Carver said. "We wait for the thing to get free and find us? Sure! Bodhan can make it some fucking tea."
Jake cackled wetly. "I’m going to be king," he assured them.
Fenris felt the magic race down his arm, searing and burbling under his skin, and with a roar more rage than pain, he clenched his fist, terminating the conversation and the mage. Somewhere in the back of his head, he could hear Anders talking, but none of the words seemed all that important. Merrill’s vines retreated, taking the blood mage with them, but Fenris remained still, his arm awkward and bloody, skin blistering, before Anders could catch up with the problem. Cold and soft — he knew cold and soft. That was good.
"Fenris?" Anders crouched and moved into Fenris’s field of view. "You all right?"
It was touching him. It was touching him and he couldn’t tell where it was coming from, and then— "Mage." Fenris’s eyes focused on Anders, disgust rolling across his face. "You think you have the right—"
Anders braced himself and took the slap. "To save your life? Yeah, I do, Fenris. That’s what I’m here for!"
"You—" The light went out in Fenris’s eyes, and he blinked. Blood on his hand. Anders looked concerned. Dead man… "What?"
"Blood magic," Anders told him. "We lost you for a minute. You all right?"
"This is disgusting. I need to wash my arm, before Artemis sees." Fenris shook out his hand.
"It’s a house in Hightown. Place might have running water," Varric said. He almost sounded too calm.
Fenris nodded but kept moving his hand. Blood mage’s blood. It always came back to blood.