[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 329
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Keran ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence,
Notes: Cormac finds himself in more trouble than he’d anticipated. Cullen discovers an unexpected twist to this ongoing adventure.
Admittedly, he probably should have used one of the multitude of chamberpots before leaving Isabela’s suite at the Hanged Man, but they were all sufficiently foul that he hadn’t much wanted to get that close to them. All the same, Cormac had come to the conclusion he was not making it all the way back to Hightown without taking a tinkle. Fortunately, if there was something Lowtown had an abundance of, it was dark alleys. Also people who didn’t ask too many questions about what went on in them. And that was a nice alley, right there.
Except it was also an alley he had fond memories of, and he couldn’t bring himself to whiz on that wall knowing what Artie would think of it. And so he turned around to whiz on the other wall, instead. But, among the splashing sounds he heard a clank, and before he could size up whether that was a guard or a templar, the smite hit. Templar. But, was that aimed at him, or did he just catch the edge of it?
Dropping the hem of his robes, he considered the alley, but half his senses were short without his magic. This was not a situation he’d expected to be in — always combat before the smite. Ah, there, at the mouth of the alley — the gleam of the street light on armour.
"Good evening, Ser Templar! Just stopping off to water the lichen. I’ll be on my way, then." Cormac laughed and rubbed the back of his head, making himself out to be drunker than he was in the hopes of just walking away from this.
But, the hand caught him from behind, pressing some bitter wad of wet sea sponge between his lips, as his mouth opened in shock. It took no time at all to learn the body behind him was also wearing plate, as he slammed his elbow against it. No, no, no, this was not how it was supposed to end — he had a family to look after, he had a revolution to start.
But, the wetness against his tongue turned to burning, under it, and he could feel it spreading out from his mouth, the burning pain and then the icy numbness. As the templar in the mouth of the alley drew closer, Cormac let himself sag against the other one, feeling the templar behind him brace against his weight. Once the other was close enough, it was two steps to hook a leg behind that templar’s neck, and he slammed his other foot against the front of the helmet until it popped off, and kicked the templar in the face once more for good measure. The templar behind him tried to drop him, but found it difficult to twist out of his grip.
"Put me down! Put me down, I say! I am a nobleman and a scholar!" Cormac shouted, spitting out the sponge. He wasn’t expecting anyone to help, so much as expecting someone might remember, come morning, or the next pass of the guard.
And then the templar in front of him finally managed to bat his foot aside and lean in, and the last thing he saw was the gleam of a metal gauntlet connecting with his face.
Cullen stumbled, yawning, as he followed Anton and Anders down the stairs to the docks. "Sorry," he muttered. "Been up a while."
Anders handed him a potion. "Drink that. It’ll help. You’ll be fine through about lunch, if it’s as late as I think it is."
"Bless you, serah," Cullen proclaimed, accepting the potion and handing back the bottle once he’d drunk it. "So, how are you still awake? Do you sleep like he does?" He pointed at Anton.
"No, I’m a Warden. It’s part of the package. Sleep is a little more optional, eating is a little less optional." Anders shrugged, looking in his bag for something else. No apples. No jerky. Cormac really hadn’t come home, the night before. Pity.
"Which is why you’re ever so fortunate that I have a brother who brings you sandwiches," Bethany said, with a smile, hooking her arm through Anders’s.
"Does everyone know about that?" Anders groaned.
"It’s not like he’s quiet about it. It’s not like he’s quiet about anything. I do wish you’d gag him, if you’re upstairs." Bethany patted Anders’s arm, and Anders turned bright red.
"Anyway, this templar says they’re to meet up again down at this warehouse. Does anyone think this might be a trap? Because this sounds like a trap." Anders eyed Anton’s back.
"As the resident, trap-disarming scoundrel," Anton said, batting his eyelashes over his shoulder at Anders, "I would say ‘Yes. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like’."
"Great," Cullen muttered, wondering if Anders had another one of those potions. Or ten.
The warehouse was simple enough to find. Anton had cornered a few slavers in the same building months before, but he was surprised — and intrigued — to find no traps waiting for them. Not on the ground, at least.
Cullen heard their voices before he saw them. He wasn’t surprised to recognise at least one voice, but he hadn’t been expecting that voice.
"Keran?" The name came out before he could stop himself, and Anton cringed. There went their element of surprise.
Keran and the mage he was speaking with turned, wearing twin startled looks. "I told you he was after us!" the mage said, jabbing a finger in Cullen’s direction.
Keran shook his head, ran a hand through his hair in agitation. "I… I’m sorry, Captain. I thought I’d look into it before I let you know."
"A traitor!" the mage cried out. "To arms!"
"No! No, no, stop that!" Keran cried. "I know you’ve been afraid to look up, but he’s with us!"
"Where the fuck is Cormac, when I need him," Anders sighed, sweeping a hand in front of him and sticking everyone to the ground. "And I could have stunned you, too, so knock that off! We’re here to talk!"
Keran cleared his throat. "About Cormac, actually… He’s fine. Well, mostly. I told them not to do it, I swear. If I’d known sooner, I’d have warned you."
"How fine is ‘mostly fine’, Keran?" Anton asked, eyes suddenly cold and firmly locked on Keran’s.
"Well, he’s unconscious and out of his mind on magebane, but as soon as it wears off, he’ll be no worse for it." Keran held up his hands. "I didn’t know, until it was too late."
At the word ‘magebane’, Anders’s eyes turned blue — the kind of blue that lit the space just in front of his face. "Didn’t I save your life, once?"
"You did. Believe me, I still dream about those blood mages. I don’t know where I’d be without you." Keran shook his head. "I’d never have let them kidnap anyone who wasn’t an actual threat, but… it wasn’t up to me. They said someone was spying, and we needed leverage. Someone the spy cared about, as a hostage."
"And they took my brother." Anton looked less than amused.
"Well, I suppose it was him or the Knight-Captain, and … well … that would’ve started whole new kinds of trouble." Keran shrugged. "But, he’s safe. Nobody’s hurt him more than it took to bring him down. There’s no blood on him. Nothing’s broken. More than I can say for Hugh. Cormac smashed his nose flat."
"Good," Anders muttered, re-casting the paralysis as one of the mages lifted a foot. "And I’m not healing it, either. He got what he was asking for, there."
"They should’ve just talked to you. I know you’re a reasonable person. I mean —" Keran pointed at Cullen. "You got him out in one piece, against all odds. You know how dangerous Meredith has gotten."
"Tell me you didn’t bring Ella out here," Cullen said, suddenly.
"What? No. No, no. I’m not going to do anything that would sabotage what you’ve got going, Captain." Keran shook his head again and got to pacing. "Thrask thinks Meredith will cause open war with the mages, if she stays in charge, and he’s trying to find a way to take her down."
"Did you let him know we’ve been in contact with the Divine?" Cullen asked. "I’m doing my best."
"I think you’ve got to talk to Thrask. Let him know what you’re up to. It might settle things a bit," Keran suggested.
"What I’ve got to do is get you all back into the Gallows, before anyone notices you’re gone," Cullen called across the room. "The First-Enchanter knows you’re sneaking out, and he’s sent us to make sure it’s not blood magic."
"And if he knows," Bethany said, stepping out from behind the rest of them, "other people also know. And the more people who know, the more likely someone is going to tell Meredith."
"Lady Amell!" Keran’s eyes widened and he coughed and tried to figure out what to do with his hands.
"Oh, yes. The very last and only one." Bethany smiled, turning to address the crowd. "The best sign you have that the Knight-Captain is on your side is that he has shown up in the company of apostates."
"I am not an apostate!" Anders insisted. "I’m a Grey Warden!"
"Bethy," Anton said, throwing her a worried look.
"What?" she said. "They might as well know. They’re already in trouble with Meredith. What’s the harm?" She waved her hand, and the air around her shimmered, a bubble coalescing around her. It was quite a bit more fragile than any of Cormac’s shields, but it did the trick.
She couldn’t see the reactions on the paralysed faces around them, but Keran’s jaw dropped wide enough for all of them. Next to her, Cullen squared his jaw and managed not to cringe.
"You’re…?" Keran sputtered, looking back and forth between Bethany and Cullen’s unsurprised, if steely, expression. "Mage? You’re a mage?" He jabbed a finger at Cullen. "And this after you gave me that speech about seeing Ella!"
"That’s completely different!" Cullen protested. "He’s not a mage!" He gestured at his husband, who smiled and waved.
"Still!" Keran looked at Cullen like he was seeing him for the first time. "You’re friends with an apostate, you’re related to an apostate by marriage, and you haven’t brought her in?"
Cullen couldn’t quite tell if that was judgement or awe in Keran’s voice.
Keran shook his head at his paralysed companions. "You see? This is ridiculous! I told you you should have just talked to him!"
"And you know what else is ridiculous?" Anton said with an unamused smile. "Taking our brother. Not just ridiculous but stupid. Where is he?"
"The main base is on the Wounded Coast. They should all be there. Your brother, too." Keran ducked his head apologetically. "I promise you. Meredith is the only one we’re trying to harm."
"Maker. What am I supposed to do with these idiots?" Cullen sighed, rubbing his face. "You don’t have any potions of good ideas, do you, Anders?"
"If I did, I’d have made myself sick on them, by now," Anders joked.
"We’re not sending them to the Rose. I can’t afford it," Anton declared. "Sixteen sovereigns for a babysitter!"
"It’s because all your friends are expensive whores, Anton. You’ve outdone yourself. Or at least out priced yourself." Anders grinned.
"Well, no, but what if we do? Keran, can these people be trusted to act in their own best interest?" Bethany asked. "Because if they can, we should send them to get the others and sneak back in to the Gallows. You know who they are, don’t you, Cullen? You can talk to them later, once they’re back inside and we haven’t got to worry about them being caught out."
Anton sighed and held out his hand. "Give me something to write with. Anders, I know you have something. You never stop writing."
"I do so!" But, after a minute’s fumbling around in his bag, Anders came up with something to write with and on, and handed those to Anton.
"I’m going to send them with instructions," Anton said, leaning against Cullen’s back, to write. "Get the rest from the Rose — Dips will let them go, if you show her the note — and take Jethann along. Actually, let Jethann leave first, and give him a five minute start."