[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 328
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, Cullen has issues
Notes: Vicious guard cats, riots in the streets, and questionable uses for the Blooming Rose. And, you know, some mage/templar problems.
Anton had wanted to bring Cormac for this. If there were mages, Cormac could keep them safe. Cormac could probably also get them out of anything he got them into. But, Cormac was nowhere to be found, and Bodhan hadn’t seen him leave. Maybe he’d been out with Isabela all night or something. Still, there was no time to run back and forth across Kirkwall, looking for him. No, no. Anton would just ask Anders, instead. A healer would be a good idea, if nothing else. If they couldn’t avoid getting hit, at least they could avoid staying hurt.
"Knock-knock!" Anton said, striding into the clinic, leading Bethany and a blindfolded Cullen. "Have you seen my brother?"
"Which one?" Anders asked, absently, a wave of healing magic sweeping over the woman standing before him.
Behind Anton, Cullen jerked upright, and Bethany’s attention shifted wholly to him.
"Which one do you think? The one you’d know where he was." Anton rolled his eyes.
"Except I don’t. He didn’t come home, that I know of. At least, I didn’t see him, last night. He went out to the Hanged Man. I figured he’d stayed with Isabela." Anders shrugged and waved the next patient forward.
"Well, since he’s not around, I need your help with something. Hush hush. Magey stuff."
"And that’s why you’ve brought a templar with you." Anders shot back.
"Hey, he’s blindfolded! And that’s my husband!" Anton argued.
Anders sighed. "I can hear your armour rattling from here, Cullen. Take off the blindfold and sit down. I’ll be with you in a minute."
Hesitantly, Cullen reached for the blindfold, giving Anders a moment to change his mind before tugging it off. He blinked up at the tall ceilings, around at the patients, and down at the floor. "That floor is… incredibly shiny," he said, the words spilling out automatically. It make him think of the pond he used to skate across when he was a kid, and he half expected to go gliding across the floor with every step.
"Artie?" Bethany asked, giving Anders a sympathetic and long-suffering look.
Anders nodded. He tilted his chin towards his chest and growled out, "Mage-floors."
At Cullen’s quizzical look, Anton shook his head. "Don’t ask," he said. "I still have scars."
Anders grinned as he turned to his next patient, hand already glowing with a warm, healing light as he asked her what was troubling her.
Cullen watched, fascinated despite himself. Anders was a Warden, after all, so Cullen wasn’t neglecting his duty by allowing him to practice magic. All these years, and Cullen still needed to remind himself of that, even when watching magic do something as incredible as mend a broken bone in an instant. Cullen had broken his wrist once, as a kid — likely on that same pond he’d been skating on, now that he thought about it — and he remembered how long it had taken it to heal. His wrist still crunched a bit when he turned it a certain way.
He shouldn’t feel on edge around healing magic just because it was magic. And yet…
One more patient, and Anders finally turned back to the siblings and Cullen. "So. Something magey, and you need both a templar and a healer." Anders shook his head. "For future reference, I accept whiskey as bribes."
Anton groaned. "Is this because I bring Fenris tarts? Do I need to start bringing you gifts too just to get you out of the clinic?"
"It wouldn’t hurt," Anders said primly.
"And I’m sure we all know what you’re bribing Ser Cullen with," Bethany joked. "I suppose I’ll settle for those few hours in the First Enchanter’s office. Imagine! He reads my work!"
"Does he?" Anders asked, getting his coat and staff. "Another Nevarran historian, then? I’d never have thought it of the man."
"What? No, no. Necromancy. He’s got some amazing studies tracing the evolution of necromantic thinking across Thedas." Bethany grinned like this was the most exciting point of her week. Which, really, it was.
Anders looked away, a sad smile tugging at his lips. "I once knew another elven necromancer who would have loved a seat in that conversation." He loaded potions into his bag. "Have I healed you, since you’ve come back to your senses, Captain?"
"No. I suppose I’ve been lucky." Cullen rubbed at the back of his neck and looked around the room. This was a surprisingly clean and even room, for Darktown. "This doesn’t look like much of a sewer." Open mouth, insert foot. Congratulations, Cullen, you’re well on your way to making friends now! He froze and his eyes darted back to Anders. "I mean, it’s Darktown. There’s… It’s not…"
Anders snorted. "No, I don’t suppose it is. Someone bribed some dwarven craftsmen to do the place, while I was otherwise occupied. I came home and didn’t recognise it." He paused. "But, if we’re walking into combat, together, I need you to know me. I need you not to take a swing at me. Give me your hand."
Cullen looked hesitant. "Why?"
"Because I’m going to give you a basic healing battery. It’s not much, but it should give you enough to at least slow down when you forget I’m behind you." Anders grimaced and held out his hands, and Cullen’s hand ended up between them. The glow started green, and wavered between green and blue, as Cullen watched, nervousness slowly sliding down from his shoulders.
"That’s … that’s really nice, actually. I’m sure I’ve said that before, but I’m also sure I wasn’t in full control of my faculties at the time," Cullen admitted.
"You weren’t in control of much, for a while, there," Anders reminded him. He looked up and met Cullen’s eyes, after a moment. "It’s good to have you back."
Cullen cleared his throat. "It’s… that is, thank you. It’s good to be back." He didn’t quite hide a disappointed sigh when Anders drew his hand away, taking the warm glow of magic with him. "Now… about the meeting we hope we don’t need to crash tonight. You don’t know anything about that, do you? Not… not to make this sound like an interrogation. I am simply curious."
"Meeting?" Anders repeated, gaze sliding to Anton and Bethany before settling back on Cullen. "So we are not crashing a meeting, and magey stuff is involved. Now, see, Anton, this is why you should have brought whiskey."
"I’ll buy you some later," Anton sighed. "Retroactive whiskey."
"Orsino says some mages have been sneaking out of the Gallows," Bethany explained. Anders’s expression shifted, just the barest tilt of an eyebrow and suddenly he looked worried. "He wants us — or really the Champion — to investigate and make sure no one is misbehaving."
"At least not more than they already are," Cullen grumbled.
"I see," Anders said guardedly. "And to answer your question, captain, no, I know nothing about this." He didn’t quite manage to keep the edge out of his voice. "Though you have piqued my interest." He picked up his staff from where it leaned against the wall and turned to his assistant. "Lirene, I—"
"Yes, yes," Lirene cut him off, waving one hand in his direction. "I know. There’s nothing serious here, and if anything serious comes along, we’re well-stocked on potions, for once." She kept on rolling bandages as she spoke. "Go on."
Anders offered her a grateful smile and paused to pet the purring bundle of red fur on the cot by the door. "Make sure to guard the door, Purrcy. We’re counting on her."
Purrcy chirped and rolled lazily onto his back.
"Vicious guard-cat," Anton drawled.
"At least he doesn’t fart," Anders sniffed.
As they approached the plaza in front of the De Launcet estate, hushed voices could be heard. Anton vanished from view, and Bethany dropped behind, not to be too close to Cullen. She wondered why Anders stayed at his side, as the two of them stepped out of the alley together.
"Someone’s coming! It’s — It’s the Knight-Captain! We know you’re spying for Meredith!" One of the mages shouted, pointing an angry finger.
Anders held out his hand, calling a wisp into it, before wiggling his fingers at the assembled mages… and templars? "I don’t think any of us are spying for Meredith… Just out taking a walk with my —" He counted on his fingers. "— brother-in-law. Is it still brother-in-law if my adopted brother is married to his husband’s brother? I think it is, isn’t it?" he eyed one of the mages in confusion, and shrugged.
"Is that Anders?" asked a voice from the back of the crowd. "What the fuck, Anders!"
"I know, I know, always showing up and never invited. It’s a talent!" Anders grinned. "So, what’s the party we didn’t get invited to?"
"A funeral," one of the templars declared, drawing his sword. "Yours."
"The rest of you run! We’ll handle this!" a mage cried out, and more than half the group broke away, scattering down other alleys, as about eight mages and templars turned their attention on the interlopers.
Anders slapped out a stun, hoping to end this peacefully, but Cullen smote the plaza at the same time, and the spell failed to catch hold, merely jarring the crowd, but not stilling them. Anders looked like he might vomit. Possibly at length. "Andraste’s flaming knickerweasels, Cullen! Can you not do that directly next to the mage trying to help you!?"
"Sorry! Sorry…" But, Cullen was already blocking the first blow from a templar who also apologised.
"Forgive me, Captain. I have to."
Bethany eased out of the alley, and a greasy cloud rose up from the centre of the crowd. "Back up, Anders! Take him with you!"
Anders was already moving, long before Bethany’s voice caught up to him, but Cullen hadn’t realised what was happening, until he dropped to the ground, screaming, with the rest of their assailants.
"Sorry, Anton! He was in the way!" Bethany called into the shadows.
After a moment’s breathing, Anders went back in, blue-eyed, with the light swirling on his face and hands. Cullen wouldn’t remember, and if he did, he was deranged at the time. Justice could resist the spell, even if Anders couldn’t, and Justice dragged Cullen back out of range.
Bethany waited until they were both out of range before dropping a second spell onto the group. A green glow lit the ground, and the screaming stopped, abruptly enough to leave Bethany’s ears ringing. Mage and templar alike went stiff and still where they lay.
Cullen alone continued writhing and shrieking until the first spell died out.
"That’s better," she sighed, looking around to make sure none of the neighbours were poking their heads out through their windows. She wasn’t naive enough to think no one had seen anything, but she prayed it was too dark out for anyone to make out important — and damning — details.
"I hate that spell," Anton assured Bethany as he slipped past, dropping to his knees next to Cullen. "I hate that spell with a burning passion." He wiped off a bloody dagger and slipped it into its sheath, and Bethany didn’t ask about it. A few had escaped her first spell, and she’d trusted Anton to deal with them.
"You’re welcome," she drawled, watching the paralysed mob and keeping a spell at her fingertips. "This spell won’t last long. What do we do with them?"
Anders slowly stopped glowing. "I have bandages. You can at least tie them up, while we figure it out," he suggested, hand lingering on the side of Cullen’s face. "Or just use their belts. Those might be stronger. A good sash is your best friend, in the Circle."
"He’s fine, Anders," Bethany sighed, moving to bind the mages first. She had no doubt Anders could lay out any templar that stirred, but she worried about him hesitating over a mage. He knew someone, in this crowd.
Cullen looked horrified, as he blinked up at Anton and Anders. "What—? Was that you?"
"It was not," Anders said, shaking his head, and in no hurry to explain. "You’re lucky you didn’t hit Bethany, when you hit me. She knocked them out. Anton, your husband’s fine. Go help your sister."
Anton picked up Cullen’s hand and kissed it, eyes not leaving Cullen’s until he stood up. "Come home, tonight," he breathed, before turning to his sister. "What do you need, Bethy?"
"Do something with those tin buckets, would you?" Bethany replied, slicing another sash in half, to bind the last mage, hand and foot. "And hurry."
Anders helped Cullen sit up. "What—?" Cullen asked again, still pale, eyes uncertain.
"It’s all just a bad dream. Let it go. It’s not real. Whatever you thought you saw? It’s what you fear the most, but it’s absolutely not real. You came out with us, you’re still out with us, and we’re gathering up these weirdoes to take them… uh, where are we taking them? I think that’s up to you. To a point. That’s mostly up to you." Anders nodded, slowly rising to his feet and pulling Cullen with him.
"Ah. Well." Cullen looked down at their captives, blinking as though seeing them for the first time. Eight in total, four mages, four templars. Counting was simple enough to do, to start. "I can’t bring them back to the Gallows without Meredith finding out. And, well, I’m not sure they’ve done anything too wrong, just yet." By which he meant ‘blood magic wrong’. "I need to question them first," he decided, eyes steadily clearing as spoke. "But not out here. We could — no. Alerting the guards would give us the same problem."
"We could hide them in the De Launcets’ basement," Anton suggested cheerfully, pointing his thumb at the De Launcets’ door. "I’m sure they’d love that!"
Bethany shook her head, flicking another spell at their captives the moment she spotted movement.
"All right. Maybe not the De Launcets," Anton continued, shrugging. "But I know another place…"
Anton waved at Lusine as they filed into the Blooming Rose, leading a train of tied-up mages and templars, while Cullen tried to hide his blushing face behind his hand. "Good evening, Madame!" Anton greeted her, blithely ignoring the stares. "Are Dips and Jethann available, perchance?"
Lusine eyed the long line following Anton into the room. "Four sovereigns for each of you, for both of them."
Cullen tried to hide behind Anders, before anyone recognised him. Of course, he’d also shown up with Anton, who was both his husband and a regular, so maybe it would go unremarked, but he doubted it.
Anton squinted at Lusine. "I should get a discount for this."
"There are twelve of you. That’s forty-eight sovereigns."
"I am not paying that. And there’s only eight of us staying. The other four of us are just here to ensure they arrived safely," Anton explained, as Jethann appeared on the balcony.
"Did you bring me toys, Tony?" the elf called down.
"Andraste’s tits," Anders groaned, staring at the ceiling. "Half price and I’ll heal both of them," he said to Lusine.
"You’d do it for free," she reminded him.
"Yes, but I’ll do it much more quietly if I’m paid," Anders replied sweetly. "Unless you want your patrons to hear about all the diseases rampant under this roof." His voice rose as he spoke, and Lusine pursed her lips. "Especially some of the grosser ones I’ve been coming across. Ones where your dongle—"
"Enough," Lusine cut him off with a grimace. "Fine. Half price." She gestured curtly up the stairs. "Jethann, could you lead these messeres upstairs? You might need to use the big room." She held her hand out while Anton counted out his coins.
"My pleasure," Jethann purred, slinking down the stairs and eyeing the bound men and women like he planned to devour them. "Tony, darling, how is your brother and that delicious piece of elf he married? You really should tell them to stop by some time. For a visit."
"No. Nope. No." Anders shook his head vehemently, one hand already glowing with healing as he wagged his finger at Jethann. "No ‘visiting’ Messeres Fartemis. I’m not cleaning that up."