[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 327
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Orsino ♂, Cullen ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S1 V0 D0)
Warnings: Nerdy necromancers nerding it up
Notes: Orsino intends to ask a favour of the Champion, and discovers that he and Bethany write for the same publications.
"A message for you, messere."
Anton wasn’t surprised when Bodhan handed him a letter — the Champion was in high demand, after all — but the name at the bottom did give him pause. "Orsino?" he muttered. He checked again to make sure the letter hadn’t been addressed to Bethany. No, that was still his name at the top.
The missive was short, at least, a painfully polite request for assistance, and, really, Anton was growing tired of being in the middle of this mage-templar tug-of-war.
"Bethy?" he called up the stairs. "Fancy a visit to someone magey who isn’t related to us or sleeping with someone who is related to us?" He paused to consider that, his smile shrinking. "I hope."
"Well, that leaves so very few possibilities," Bethany called down after him. She appeared moments later, skirts gathered in one hand. "Do I know this mythical creature?"
"I suspect you’ve heard of him." Anton waved the letter. "It’s Orsino."
Bethany descended, taking the letter from Anton’s hand. "So you want me, your magical little sister, to go with you to the Gallows?"
Anton considered that and shrugged. "Yes?"
Bethany grinned. "Let me get some better shoes."
By the time they reached the Gallows, Anton still couldn’t see the difference in the shoes. As best he could tell, they were the same shoes Bethany had gone upstairs in, but she insisted they weren’t and rolled her eyes, every time he swore he couldn’t see the difference. Really, he expected she was just fucking with his head. She was very good at that, after all.
Anton let himself in, waving to the templars at the desk as if he were going to go visit Cullen, which he figured to do, since he’d walked all the way down here. One of them called after him. "Who’s the lady? You two got a girlfriend, now, too? A little something more than just a dragon?"
Bethany cracked her fan open to hide the laugh she struggled to contain.
"In your dreams, Petrus. The dragon’s in your dreams, too. Careful, or I’m going to start thinking you’re the one who wrote that for the Gazette!" Anton called back as he held open the door to the stairs for his sister.
"Oh, don’t even joke about that, Messere Knight-Captain’s wife! The Commander’s still up in arms about the Gazette."
"Hey, hey, that’s ‘Champion’ to you, Ser Smartass." Anton winked and let the door close behind him.
Up a couple of floors and down a long hall, Anton found Orsino’s office and leaned in the open door, knocking on the wall. "Looking for me, First Enchanter?"
"Thank you for coming, Champion. Few will associate with me now that I am the focus of Meredith’s ire." Orsino looked terribly tired, like he’d been worn down to the bone, just working in the same building with Meredith.
"I hope you don’t mind that I’ve brought my sister with me. She has some extra insight, where magical difficulties are concerned." Anton stepped in and held out his hand, and Orsino stared blankly at it, for a long moment, before giving the hand a single firm shake.
"With the father you had, one of you had to be paying attention." A faint smile crossed Orsino’s face, and he nodded to Bethany. "A pleasure, Lady… Amell?"
"Amell, yes, just like my mother."
The flicker of eyebrow that accompanied the response told Orsino everything he needed to know about that decision. "Champion, I am in a difficult position. Meredith is not entirely wrong."
"And a weathervane that’s jammed is still occasionally correct," Anton pointed out.
"I know some of my people are using dangerous means to oppose her, but I cannot seek the templars’ aid without making every mage a target," Orsino sighed, pacing nervously, never quite looking at either sibling.
"Dangerous means?" Bethany asked, curious. Was this blood magic, or something more unusual?
"All I know is numerous mages have left the Circle at night, sometimes for days at a time. I’d rather not follow our knight-commander, by leaping to the worst possible conclusion, but blood magic has crossed my mind." Orsino remained turned away, studying his bookcase, as he spoke.
"She does like to add one and one and get eleven, doesn’t she?" Anton said. This sounded like a new headache for Cullen waiting to happen.
Orsino huffed. "Sometimes a hundred and eleven." He turned back to the siblings, somehow looking even more tired than before. "I’ve heard rumours, whispers, of a meeting tonight in Hightown. I would go myself, but should I leave the tower without permission, Meredith would call it proof of my involvement."
"So," said Anton, drawing out the word, "I shouldn’t slit my wrists and dance naked under the moonlight just to fit in?"
"Well, if that’s what we’re doing," Orsino said, eyebrows leaping up, "then I might have to join you."
Bethany smothered an inelegant laugh behind her hand, while Anton looked like a strong wind could blow him over. "I’m sure Cullen would pay to see that," she said.
Anton considered that for a moment. "How much?" he asked.
"The dancing naked is optional." Orsino went on. " I just need you to learn the nature of this meeting. You needn’t interrupt unless you find proof of something sinister. I pray not, or Meredith will have what she needs to justify the Right of Annulment."
Bethany’s expression sobered at that. "She wouldn’t go that far, would she?" she asked, only to shake her head. "She would."
"You know, at this point, I’m not sure that’s really an improvement on the Exalted March the Divine is considering," Anton sighed. "What is it with this city and pissing off important people?"
"You’re important people," Bethany reminded him. "Does it piss you off?"
"Well, yes, but I’m not going to kill everyone over it!" Anton huffed, holding out a hand to Orsino, again. "I’ll see what I can do. Do you know how they’re getting out? Or why they’re coming back, if they’ve gotten out? It really seems to defy reason."
"I have suspicions, but I do not know. Forgive me if I do not elect to share with the Knight-Captain’s husband, just yet." The corner of Orsino’s mouth tipped up, and he shrugged apologetically, as he shook Anton’s hand again. "Thank you, Champion."
"Hey, that’s what Champions do, right? Right wrongs, prevent the entire city getting slaughtered by warmongering idiots. I feel like I’ve done this before, somehow…" Anton threw his hands up and shook his head, turning toward the door. "Since I’m in the building, I’m going to go distract my charming and delicious husband from his work. Are you coming along, Bethany?"
"Oh, if you’re going to … ‘distract’ him, maybe I should stay here and chat up the First Enchanter, a little longer. I wouldn’t want to overhear any more dragon noises." Bethany shook her head and smiled at Orsino. "You know, I read that treatise you published on the trends in religious attributions for death magic, last year. That was really insightful. I quoted you, actually, in something I wrote just after."
"Yes, I know. I remember reading it!" Orsino snapped his fingers and pointed at her. "That was you! I wanted to compliment you on your thorough study of the features of those tomb statues! I would never have thought to go where you took that!"
"Well, my specialities are specifically Nevarran. You seem to have a more international approach."
"Right-o. I’m just going to … er… dragon noises. I’ll be back for you in a bit, Bethy." Anton let himself out, before the conversation got any stranger.
Anton found Cullen either deep in thought or deep in sleep, eyes closed and cheek propped up on his fist. "Knock, knock, captain," Anton said, leaning in the doorway, and Cullen jumped, bolting upright and blinking owlishly.
"Oh. Hello, Anton. Good… morning? Afternoon? Please tell me it’s not the afternoon." Cullen ran a hand over his face and looked down at the papers on his desk.
"Sorry, Ser Gorgeous," Anton said, walking in to rest his hip against Cullen’s desk. "You know I don’t wake before the crack of noon."
Cullen groaned and slumped over his desk. Anton slid a hand through his husband’s curls. "The paperwork can wait for a bit, Cullen. That’s what Keran is for, isn’t it?"
That paperwork muffled Cullen’s next groan. "You’re better to look at, anyway," Cullen said, sitting back again and smiling tiredly up at his husband.
"Of course I am," Anton replied. "I’m lovely to listen to, as well, though perhaps less so when I talk to you about my conversation with Orsino."
Cullen’s smile slipped. "And here I’d hoped you’d come to distract me from my job."
"Sadly, I think I’m here to drag you out to do your job, in the middle of the night. Which is a fine time to be out doing things that aren’t your job. Like your husband. I’m starting to think you’ve forgotten that, again," Anton teased rubbing his thumb on Cullen’s cheek.
"I thought you were going to tell me about a conversation with Orsino. Is he telling people I need to get laid more? Because he’s not wrong, but that seems a little… unlike him, really." Cullen turned his head, pressing a kiss to the heel of Anton’s hand.
"I sincerely hope what Orsino just told me has nothing to do with you getting laid, or you’ve been having magical orgies without me!"
Cullen choked on his tongue. "What?"
"Apparently, there are some mages coming and going at odd hours, for no discernible purpose. The First Enchanter requests that I look into it. Obviously, if you’re going to be a shit about it, Ser Templar, I’m not taking you along, but…" Anton shrugged.
"Going to be a shit about it?" Cullen inquired. "Did you mean, ‘going to do my job and stop mages from leaving the tower when they shouldn’t be’?"
"Exactly that, actually. I need them to leave, or I’ll never figure out what they’re doing. Whatever it is, they keep coming back. What mage do you know who has left this place and then turned around and came back?"
"That is an excellent observation," Cullen allowed. "If they’re coming back, maybe they’re not leaving without permission. Maybe some of the men are using them for something, although I still question what, and why, if that were the case, they’d come back at all, all the same."
"You see why I’d like your expertise in this matter," Anton said, looking like he’d won an argument Cullen wasn’t even aware they were having. "And I’d like even more if this didn’t get back to Meredith. Orsino says she’ll use it to force an Annulment, and I’m pretty sure you’d object to that as much as I would."
Cullen rubbed his eye with the heel of his hand. "Lovely," he muttered. "As if tensions weren’t high enough."
Anton sucked in a breath. "There are rumours, you know. Everyone talks. Says the knight-commander’s crazy, and I’m not sure they’re wrong."
"Have you been reading the Gazette again, love?" Cullen asked with a brittle smile. "I’d be careful with that. Page Six was a bit odd this week. Or so I hear." His hand was still on Anton’s, pads of his fingers tracing patterns along Anton’s skin. "As for Meredith… she needs a spine of iron to survive her position." He wasn’t sure whom he was trying to convince. "I have seen madness before — and no, I don’t mean your siblings. I saw Uldred’s eyes when there was nothing human left in them. The knight-commander… she is not there yet."
"Yet," Anton repeated.
Cullen wished he had a response to that, one that could convince them both that things would stay that way.
"Should I be worried?" Anton asked, trying to keep his tone light. He remembered those two weeks Cullen had been locked away. He had no delusions about what Meredith was capable of doing.
"Yes." Cullen sighed, slumping in his seat, knees jutting forward over his boots. "After what happened in Ferelden, I told myself I would never again question the purpose of the Order. But, it grows harder each day to tell whether I’m serving the templars or only the Knight-Commander. It seems those two things are no longer one and the same. Which, really, I knew that. I’ve known that longer than we’ve been married."
"I know. It’s part of why I married you, that sharp eye," Anton joked.
"Whether or not she’s mad, she’s wrong. So many of her decisions are against the Chantry law — the law that defines the Order. But, the law no longer turns her." Cullen looked deeply sorrowful, as he considered that. "I am afraid to stay. I am more afraid to leave."
"We’ll get there," Anton promised. "We’ve sent word to the Divine. This will get fixed. Maybe you’ll be the new Knight-Commander, when it’s all done."
Cullen groaned piteously. "No. I don’t need a job with more paperwork."
"Ah! But, didn’t you tell me you’re doing your paperwork and hers? It’s less paperwork, if it’s just hers," Anton pointed out, with a wink.
"And somehow, I’m not reassured," Cullen drawled. "So tonight, then? Wonderful."
"Good thing you got a nap in early," Anton teased.
"Nap? What nap? I wasn’t napping!" Cullen said, gaze darting to the side. "Hush, you," he said to Anton’s answering cackle. He tugged on Anton’s hand, pulling him in for a kiss. "That means there’s still some time for you to distract me from all this paperwork."
"Ah, there are those sharp observation skills again," Anton said, grinning against Cullen’s lips. He wondered how long he could ‘distract’ Cullen before his sister became impatient. Or before Orsino proposed marriage.