[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 330
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Keran ♂, Samson ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence
Notes: The rescue begins. More revelations on the road. An unexpected addition to the day’s festivities.
They paused long enough in Hightown to pick up Artemis, who paused long enough in the doorway to hear the words ‘Cormac’ and ‘kidnapped’. Now Artie walked beside Keran, distressingly calm, knuckles white on his staff, and Anton didn’t doubt he would be halfway there already if he knew where they were going.
The wind off the water blew cold, tracing icy fingers along Anton’s skin even through his shirt sleeves. "Why couldn’t we be dealing with subversive mages and templars on a nice, sunny day?" Anton asked, huddling against Cullen as they walked. "Good beach weather. That’s all I’m asking for."
Cullen patted his shoulder consolingly. "I’m sure there will be other misunderstandings that bring you out here, love," he said.
"But hopefully no more kidnappings," Bethany said with a dangerous smile.
"You’re assuming there will be a coast left when I’m through," Artemis replied.
Anders glowed quietly beside him, the occasional flicker of blue darting down his fingers or across his face. "When we’re through," he muttered. "Don’t get hit," he added, after a moment. "They have magebane, and I can’t fix that."
"It wears off!" Keran pointed out.
"Yes. I know that. I know that very well. And I also know it takes a long time to wear off, if it’s more than you can paint on a dagger." Anders looked even less pleased than he had, which Anton hadn’t been sure was possible.
Actually, Anton thought the last time he’d seen Anders look quite this irate was the night they’d met, outside the Chantry. "You really love my brother, don’t you."
"Don’t be stupid," Anders scoffed, turning bitter blue eyes on Anton. "I’m a mage."
Cullen sucked in a sharp breath. That was something he hadn’t considered. With all the other damage the Order was doing, under Meredith’s watch, even after everything he’d seen in Kinloch Hold, that had seemed almost innocuous. You couldn’t let mages have serious relationships, or they’d have children — or that was the idea, anyway, but… he’d always thought of serious relationships as being between men and women. Never mind that he’d married a man, it had just never occurred to him to think differently.
"If he loves you, it’s because you deserve it," he said, knowing it to be true. After everything that had happened, somehow, Anders was still a good man, maybe a better one than he’d been, when they were young. Certainly better than anything Cullen, himself, had become.
"He doesn’t." Anders smiled sadly. "Not like you mean."
Artie listened and didn’t dare say anything, not when he had so many memories of Cormac’s whispered devotion. They would never understand the whole of it, and it was better that way.
Still. Magebane and Cormac was another image he could not shake. Cormac, who Keran insisted was all right, who had better be all right.
Artie’s throat felt tight, and he had to remind himself to breathe.
"Shit," Keran hissed, touching Artie’s arm in a gesture to stop. Two men blocked their path, one in robes, the other in templar armour. Mage and templar, standing together. It was the sort of thing he would have marvelled at, if the weren’t armed and facing them like enemies. "Hello, friends!" he called out to them. "It’s Ser Keran. There’s no need to—!"
Keran ducked just in time to avoid the ball of fire aimed at his head.
"At least let the man finish his sentence," Bethany sighed, fingertips glowing green as they weaved through the air.
Artie’s spell landed before hers, however. A flick of his wrist, and both men went skidding back along the sand, flailing and shrieking, feet scrabbling at the ground as they continued back, back, and over the cliff. Artemis spared the cliff a cold glance and continued down the path.
Anton sidled up to Keran and, with one finger under his chin, gently closed Keran’s mouth. "Before your tongue starts collecting dust," he said. "Yes, he’s a mage too. Surprise!"
A little further down, the path turned sharply as it came up to a steep drop down to the water, and on that angle of sand, the bodies of dead sailors and drowned Tevinter warriors rose out of the ground.
Bethany eyed them, for a moment. "You think so, do you?" she muttered, stopping and closing her eyes. These she knew. That was definitely Anders and Justice — how close they’d gotten, over the years, like pools of water and lyrium with one edge in common. But, that was a distraction. Further out — she heard the sound of metal on metal. There. That one. That one was reaching out, and she was quick to put herself in the way, to get pulled in.
Screaming emanated from around the corner, and then a strange stillness, followed by a bit of a scuffle, confused voices and shuffling feet in the sand. The undead turned their attention on the people still blocked by the turn in the path.
"What is that?" Keran asked, sword hanging loosely in his hand, as he watched.
"That is why you don’t fuck with my sister," Anton replied, with a cocky smile.
"No, what … how?" Keran sputtered.
"Necromancy not big here?" Anders asked, staff resting on his shoulder. "They can raise corpses to fight for them. I had a friend who always said it was as simple as asking the local spirits. He used to go around with all these dead mice and birds following him around. And she’s… got a talent. She gets in people’s heads. I don’t think it’s clean enough for politics, but it’s definitely strong enough for a fight. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and I don’t really get why — possession’s a big one, though. Can’t shake a double. But, I’ve seen Qunari shake her off like nothing."
"Certainty of belief," Bethany filled in, as the clatter from around the corner died down. "They know too strongly what the world is, and their place in it. Some of them can be shaken, but… it doesn’t really work well on most Qunari."
Keran nodded, looking a bit pale. ‘Certainty of belief’. Did he have that? Did the captain have that, with what Meredith was doing with the Order? He wondered how many mages had that ability… and that was a dangerous thought.
Around the corner, they found more corpses, fresh ones that didn’t rise to meet them. Keran recognised a few of their faces, but didn’t allow himself to put names to them, not now.
Then another familiar face appeared, this one still attached to a living body, his sword still sheathed. "Well, here you are," drawled Samson. "You’ve been sticking your nose in every problem in Kirkwall since you stumbled off the boat." He eyed Anton as he spoke, but his smirk froze when he spotted the knight-captain beside him.
"Samson?" Cullen said, one hand still on his sword’s hilt. "Are you involved in this?"
"Well, good to see you too, Captain," he said, almost in a sneer. "It’s been a while. I’m sorry I haven’t kept in touch, but you see, the years haven’t been quite as kind to me as you."
"Samson…" Anton tapped his chin, trying to knock loose the memory he was looking for. "You’re that guy, the one we asked about Feynriel years ago. Cullen, you know him?" Anton asked his husband.
"I used to be templar, once upon a time," Samson said. "But that was before you made it to our fair city." Samson still looked incredibly ragged and tired, eyes bloodshot and haunted.
Cullen cleared his throat, shifting his weight awkwardly. "We used to be roommates," he told Anton.
"Are the mages here using blood magic?" Anton asked and Bethany slapped his arm.
"It always comes down to that, don’t it?" Samson drawled. "They claim innocence, demand equality, but back them into a corner, and they got options we don’t. Haven’t found a mage yet who won’t take it."
Bethany’s eyes widened, suddenly. "Samson, was it? My brother Carver brought you lyrium, once!"
"It’s been a long time since anyone could get under my skin with that. I know what I am." Samson shrugged. "So, it shouldn’t surprise you to see me here, right? One more blockhead move that’s gonna keep me in the gutter."
"No, no!" Bethany waved a hand, cracking open the fan that hung from one wrist, to cover her face. "He’s been concerned about you! Ever since—" She stopped and glanced at Cullen.
"They locked me up, Raleigh," Cullen sighed. "That’s why Carver was there."
"And here I thought he was worried about himself!" Samson laughed. "It’s not as easy as it looks, is it?"
Cullen’s back stiffened, his cheeks tinged. And then Anders answered for him, tossing Samson a bottle from his bag. "Mage grade. I don’t know if it’ll do you much good, but there it is. You know where the clinic is, in Darktown? Come see me. I’ll do what I can for you."
"They call me Anders. Kinloch Hold. The Captain and I go way back." Anders leaned on Cullen’s shoulder and crossed his ankles.
"The Captain is rather embarrassed about all of that, really." Cullen squeezed his eyes shut.
"The Captain wasn’t a captain then, and couldn’t do shit about it. You want to piss on somebody about what went on down there, take it out of Hadley. Did Hadley even make it?" Anders asked, watching Samson turn the lyrium potion over in his hands.
"You’re a mage?" Samson finally said.
"Give the man a round of applause!" Anders waved a hand across the front of his body, and a trail of electrical glitter followed.
"You’re keeping interesting company these days, Cullen," he said, forgetting titles for a moment — perhaps on purpose. "I won’t lie, I wouldn’t have expected it of you, not with the way you used to talk. ‘Mages aren’t people like you and me’, right?" He gave Cullen a brittle smile.
"The Captain is embarrassed about that too," Cullen said, wincing. He didn’t dare look at Bethany or Artemis, let alone Anders. "He was also a blind fool once upon a time. Raleigh, why are you here?"
"I just wanted to see Meredith out on her ass, like she did to me," Samson answered, clenching his fists.
"Meredith does seem to have a serious case of the crazies, yes," Artemis muttered.
"But is she wrong?" Samson countered, shrugging helplessly. "I’d hoped with Meredith gone, I could take up the shield again. But maybe she was right — give them a hint of freedom, mages go bad." He looked down and away, and it took Anton a moment to realise he was looking down at the corpses, the older corpses the now-dead mage had raised. He wondered how long Samson had been standing there and how much he had seen.
"It’s not the freedom that makes mages ‘go bad’," Anders said. His eyes weren’t blue, not yet.
"Your friends are at least half right," Anton admitted. "Without Meredith, Kirkwall’s got a much better chance at peace. There are still some stumbling blocks—"
Anders coughed and muttered, "The Grand Cleric."
"— but, without Meredith in the way, we have a much better chance of turning aside the chaos that has seized the city." Anton nodded.
"Mages and templars working together. I must be dreaming!" Anders clapped a hand to his chest and Bethany snickered.
"You’ve been out for a while, then, Warden," Bethany teased. "That’s the Knight-Captain you’re leaning on like a bookcase."
"Could you possibly not?" Cullen asked after a moment. "You’re heavier than you look."
Anders sighed dramatically, leaning even more on Cullen, for a moment, before he straightened up. "So. Meredith."
"I’d cheer to see her shipped to Val Royeaux," Samson said, "but I don’t have the stomach to turn against all that’s right and natural to do it."
"If you mean you’d rather not see demons brought into this, I’d agree with that. If you meant something less flattering, I’m going to advise not explaining yourself." Anders pressed a thumb against the corner of his eye. "And speaking of things that are heavier than they look, I think you have something of mine. Of ours. Of, well, theirs, really. I’m just borrowing him."
"Remind me never to loan you any books if this is how you borrow things," Anton joked. "But, he’s right. Where’s my brother?"
"Ah, I thought that might be why you all came out here," Samson said, eyeing the three Hawkes. "Your brother’s got a mean right hook, from what I hear. You’re heading in the right direction, though. They’re holding him a little ways down." He tipped his head down the path. "I imagine they’re expecting you, though."
"Perhaps you could be so kind as to show us?" Cullen asked. It only sounded like a suggestion, and Samson knew it.
Samson bit his cheek against a snide comment. "Of course, Captain," he said, ducking his head. "Follow me." Samson adjusted the way his baldric sat and turned, leading them down the winding path, along the cliffside.