[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 331
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Keran ♂, Samson ♂, Thrask ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D2)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, brotherly love, an awful lot of magebane, Cormac no
Notes: Demons, blood magic, Cormac is found, at last.
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.
A pair of templars stood guard where the path bottlenecked, and Samson offered them a jaunty wave. Then they spotted the Knight-Captain over his shoulder and stiffened, unsure whether they should stand at attention or draw their swords.
"I’m just looking for my brother-in-law, Cormac Hawke," Cullen told them. He would deal with them later, once he learned Cormac was safe. "Is he here?"
"He’s… er." The templars looked at each other, and Cullen recognised Ruvena’s voice under her helmet.
"I suppose it’s too much to hope that you wouldn’t have come here," said another templar, an older, red-haired and bearded templar who didn’t hide behind his helmet. He stepped in front of Cullen and Anton and squared his shoulders, a pair of mages stepping into place on either side of him. "Though I cannot understand why you support Meredith still." For all the certainty in his voice, Cullen saw the sweat beading at his brow.
"Ser Thrask," Cullen sighed, rubbing his forehead. "I’m on your side. I thought you would have known that by now."
Behind him, Artemis sucked in a sharp breath and clutched at Anders’s sleeve. "Cormac," he breathed. Cullen followed his line of sight, looking past Thrask, and finally spotted the prone figure on the ground. "What did you do to him?" Artie asked, voice hard.
Cullen wasn’t sure if he was imagining it, but it felt like the ground had started to tremble under his feet.
"Please, Champion, Captain, I have nothing but respect for you. It is Meredith we must see gone," Thrask said. "I am sorry for any distress we may have caused you or your friends. We hadn’t realised how deeply you believed in our cause." He paused. "It’s only magebane. He’s generally unharmed. Maybe a few scratches, but little more. Release the hostage!"
Anders looked a great deal more blue and less entertained at the thought of magebane, but the templar had just ordered Cormac’s release. He held tight to Justice’s demands for well, justice.
"No," the mage behind him said, moving toward Cormac. "The man dies, and then the Champion."
"Stand down, Grace," Thrask insisted, positioning himself squarely in her way. "We will not kill an innocent to achieve our ends. It gains us nothing to become Meredith."
"Meredith," Grace scoffed, with little mind to the brightening blue glow behind her. "What do I care for Meredith? I’m here for the Champion!"
"I’ve been wondering when you’d come back to bite me in the ass," Anton sighed. "Do an apostate a favour…"
Bethany slapped his shoulder, with a scowl.
"I would rather die a hundred times than endure one more hour in the Circle," Grace declared, chin tipped up defiantly.
Anders’s head was bowed, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose, Justice bright enough on his skin to have lit the camp, were it not already day. "As much as I agree with that sentiment, I disagree with your methods. Give us Cormac, and I’ll kill you, myself. Or don’t, and I’ll kill you anyway. Andraste knows, it’s not like I didn’t throw myself out a third-storey window."
"In Kinloch Hold?" Cullen glanced over, horrified, only to notice Anders was doing that glowing thing again. Something about the Wardens, he’d said, and from the look of him, it took a lot out of him. Cullen wondered what it actually did.
"That’s how we met," Anders muttered, and Cullen winced.
"I have been counting the days to get my revenge!" Grace went on, shaking off Anders’s suggestion. "Alain! Kill the hostage!"
"I… I don’t know, Grace—" Alain began, but the booming voice from the blindingly blue mage cut him off.
"THIS IS UNJUST." Justice reached over and drew Samson’s sword, and the templar let him have it.
"Holy shit," Samson breathed, nearly dropping the bottle of lyrium he still held.
"YOU WOULD SLAY A MAN WHO DID YOU NO WRONG? FOR HAVING A BROTHER WHO FAILED TO HELP YOU AS MUCH AS YOU WISHED?" Justice roared, a charge running down the length of the blade in his hand. "THIS WILL NOT STAND."
Anton spread his hands, look offended. "I thought I was helping plenty!"
"What is happening?" Keran asked in a strangely flat voice. "Why are so many of you suddenly mages, and why is this one glowing?"
"To be fair, we’ve been mages a while," Bethany corrected him. "You just never noticed. As for him…" She looked at Justice and grappled for words. "It’s… a Warden thing."
Cullen was beginning to doubt that, but he wouldn’t say as much in front of Keran, Thrask, or the others.
"STAND AWAY FROM HIM," Justice boomed, "AND YOU WILL BE UNHARMED."
Alain backed away, trembling, but Grace sneered. "You think you frighten me, whatever you are? Kill me, if you like. What does it matter?" She shoved Alain out of the way. "If you’re too squeamish, boy, I’ll do it myself!"
"No!" The word came from Thrask, from Anders, from Cormac’s siblings, and more words were swallowed by the chaos that followed. Justice charged in a blaze of blue, and Keran felt the world shift. Except… no, it wasn’t the world that was moving. The sand shifted because he did, they did, they all did, kicking feet digging furrows in the ground. He’d heard of storms that did this, swirling whirlpools of wind that could pull a man off his feet.
But there was no wind. Just an irate mage trying to pull his brother to him.
Trees cracked and bent, the leaves stripping from them, behind them, where the sand gave way to little spits of greenery. Rocks still for a thousand years rolled toward them. But, Justice remained unmoved, as Cormac slid by his feet, still unconscious. Templars and mages alike staggered toward Artemis, though Grace lunged with what little resistance she had at Thrask. Keran threw himself toward the older templar, only to be yanked solidly back as his feet left the ground. He slammed into Artemis, who didn’t move at all, and fell to the ground, curled around the mage’s feet. As nice as those boots were, though, he did wish he could get up.
But, Grace didn’t make it very far forward, either, before a smite struck all of them, stealing her magic, mid cast. As she faltered with the loss and the sudden lack of pressure, Justice lifted his sword and let her fall back onto it.
"YOU WILL DIE ONLY ONCE. MAY IT BE ENOUGH FOR YOU." The glow did not let up in the least.
Cullen shot a look at Keran, who was trying to stand, but Keran just shrugged. "Who—?"
"Well, I hadda do something," Samson muttered. "That fucker took my sword."
"Step behind me, Serah," Bethany suggested, "before he decides to take more than just your sword."
Grace’s body slumped from Justice’s — Samson’s — sword, eyes wide and unseeing, lifeless. Glowing and glowering blue eyes slid from her to Alain, who huddled on the ground nearby, knocked to his knees from the backlash of the spell. Then Justice looked past him at the tangle of mages and templars. Helmets and hoods had been knocked off those trying to keep anonymity, and there was sand in everyone’s hair. No one stood to face Justice.
"Cormac," Artie whispered, dropping to his knees beside his brother. He prayed all that dragging hadn’t harmed him too badly, but he’d been desperate in that moment. All he’d known was that he needed to get his brother away from that woman. "Hey. Honestly, how did you sleep through all that? I though Anton was the heavy sleeper of the family." He laughed weakly and gently shook Cormac’s shoulder, but he didn’t stir. Panic. That wasn’t something he could feel. Not yet, not while his brother needed him. "Come on, Cormac. Wake up before Carver decides to punch you again."
Bethany stood at Artie’s shoulder, brow knit in worry. "Anders?" she called out. Anders, not Justice, even if his eyes were still blue. "We might need a healer."
"Wait." Trembling, Alain pushed himself to his feet, hands up, palm out in a sign of surrender when Justice turned narrowed eyes his way. "I… I am sorry," he said, "but Grace used blood magic to hold him. It’s the only way to wake him up." He eyed Cullen nervously. "I can…? Would it be all right if…?"
Cullen frowned. Blood magic was evil. That was one of the only certainties left for him to cling to, but… "Release him."
"Captain!" Samson protested.
"Are we not templars?" Cullen asked, glancing over his shoulder at Samson. "It is our duty to protect the world from the evils of magic, and I believe the greatest evil of the day is lying at our feet. Who most should be protected, here? Again, we’re templars. If the mage calls a demon, we kill him and we kill it, because that is what we’re for. But, if this is the only way to save a citizen of Kirkwall from the evil already visited upon him by the blood of another mage, is it for us to deny that salvation?" He struggled to convince himself just as much as Samson. Blood magic. Demons. There could be no good end once demons were brought in. "I’d ask a mage, but they all have a vested interest in my answer being ‘yes’."
"But, Captain!" Keran managed, finally on his feet again.
"Turn away," Cullen told them. "Both of you. And then if you’re asked if you witnessed this, you can deny it." He paused. "I need to believe that what we do is right, and I know no greater right than preserving the lives of the innocent. Do what you must, boy. What is your name?"
"Do what you must, Alain, but if I see a demon, you will die. Do not make me have misplaced my faith," Cullen warned. He doubted he’d have the opportunity to make any decisions, if demons became involved, but he was very sure death would follow. Hopefully not his own, but he’d choose it over what had happened last time.
Alain nodded. "Of course, Captain," he said, hands fidgeting against his robes to hide the way they trembled. He drew out a knife from his belt and, after taking a moment to steady his hands, sliced the back of his arm. He flicked his blood over Cormac, and the air around him rippled.
Cullen didn’t realise how tightly he was clutching his sword until he heard his gauntlet creak. He watched, not daring to blink, waiting for, dreading, the moment when the demon would appear. But then Alain was sheathing his knife, and there were still no demons that Cullen could see.
"Cormac?" Artemis called out hopefully.
"F’n… Can’t kill me… bastards…" Cormac slurred, dizzily. "I’m IMPOSSIBLE!" He threw a fist straight up, flailing at some invisible enemy.
Artemis sat back on his heels to avoid the flailing fist. "I certainly wouldn’t dispute that, brother dear," he said, a relieved smile lighting his face as he caught Cormac’s hand.
"I think he means ‘invincible’," Anton said.
"No, he is impossible," Artie argued.
Anders continued to glow, albeit a bit less vigorously, now that Cormac was at least speaking. "And you’re not invincible, Cormac," he drawled, wresting control of his mouth back from Justice. "You’re dosed out of your mind on magebane." He carefully made his way to Cormac’s other side, slapping at licks of blue that flashed across his skin.
"Impossible!" Cormac declared, hauling himself up with Anders’s sleeve, just in time to drop himself on the ground again.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is why we don’t use that much magebane. A public service announcement from your local healer." Anders rubbed his face and looked at Artemis. "This is his revenge for all the times I passed out in the middle of a spell, isn’t it."
Artie nodded. "And all the times I passed out drunk. It was a matter of time, really." He reached out to smooth Cormac’s hair back from his forehead. "Cormac, how are you?" he asked slowly. "Do you know where you are? You’re with your favourite brother."
"Impossible. ‘M impossible." Cormac nodded loosely, cheek scraping against the stone under him.
"Great. It’s the new ‘enchantment’." Anton looked like he’d had about enough of the day, and Cullen didn’t look much more vertically-inclined, beside him, despite the fact they were both still standing.
After a moment, Cormac turned his head to peer up, vacantly. "Mos’ beautiful mage in all of Thedas," he slurred, smiling fondly as he grabbed the back of Artie’s neck, pulling himself up and Artie down, until they met in the middle in a confused kiss.
"Shit," Anders muttered, rubbing his face. "You missed. I’m over here, Cormac."
Keran elbowed Samson and just pointed to the two brothers. "Did he just…?"
"No, he didn’t," Anton said, voice sounding high and strained. He stared up at the sky as though hoping staring at the sun would burn the image from his memory.
Artemis went rigid, eyes popping wide. No, nope. They were not doing this in front of Anton and Bethany. And half the templar order. He made a muffled sound against Cormac’s lips and gently pulled his brother away, holding Cormac’s face in his hands. "You can kiss Anders later," he said in a strangled voice.
Maker. Was this how it had been for Cormac all those years ago when Artie had kissed him in the middle of a party?
Cullen looked askance at Alain, who threw up his hands.
"Can’t blame that on the blood magic," he said.
"No, but you can blame it on the magebane. Trust me. I’d know." Anders put down the sword he was still holding and gathered Cormac in his arms. He tried to ignore the sound of thread snapping along his shoulder, as he lifted the slab of mage-meat off the sand and stone. "C’mon, you great oaf, we’re going home. You can kiss me all you like, once you can distinguish me from your brothers. Or the dog."
"Don’ kiss dogs," Cormac assured Anders, before being hefted over the shoulder opposite Anders’s staff.
"We’re all glad for it," Anton called out.
"You know, I always imagined I’d be the one to get rescued from vague and implausible evils. Something about it just gives me a tingle in my toes." Anders turned his head and nipped Cormac’s ass. "And yes, I know exactly what you’ve got a tingle in, right now. Don’t share."
Ser Thrask surveyed the wreckage, before turning to Cullen. "I apologise, Captain. I— I knew you were a soft touch, but I never would have imagined…"
"I get that a lot," Cullen sighed, running a hand through his hair, as it curled tighter in the sea air. Maker. He’d just gotten it to sit flat, too. "So, it seems we have a bit of a situation, here."
"It… seems that we do," Thrask agreed. "If I may, Captain… The others of our cause. I know you have encountered them." He hesitated, gaze drawn to Grace’s corpse before he winced and looked away. "What has become of them?"
"They yet live," Cullen answered, folding his arms across his chest. "For the most part, anyway. You’ll find them back in the Gallows."
"And you can thank Jethann for that," Anton added.
"I rather worry what ‘thanking’ Jethann would look like," Keran muttered, cheeks turning pink. Samson grinned and nudged him with his elbow.
Artemis raised his hand. "I’ll thank him."
Thrask’s body sagged with relief. "Thank the Maker," he murmured. "And thank you, Captain."
"And thank Jethann," Anton added again, just to make Keran blush harder. "Not you," he told Artie.
With a weary shake of his head, Cullen turned to Alain. "And you," he sighed. "What am I going to do with you?"
Alain ducked his head, feet scuffing the sand, smoothing over the furrows digging feet had left behind. "I tried to stay away from her, you know, after Decimus," he said. "But… the Circle here is worse than Starkhaven ever was. It seemed like hers was the only way out. It’s not an excuse, Captain, Champion… but it is the truth."
Starkhaven. Keran thought of Ella, and his stomach twisted. He thanked the Maker she hadn’t seen all of this.
"This guy?" Anton said, pointing at Alain. "I like this guy. He just saved my brother’s life. I think we can at least sneak him back in, don’t you?"
"I have no idea. You’re the one who mysteriously appears in my office at all hours." Cullen shot an exasperated glance at his husband. He squinted at Alain. "Starkhaven? I want you in my office in the morning. We need to talk about Starkhaven."
"So, what, you want me to get these guys back in?" Anton asked, looking at the small group. "I bet I could do it."
"I do. I will take responsibility for them, after that. I will … figure out what to do. For what it’s worth, I’ve sent word to the Divine. Assuming the messenger didn’t get stabbed in the road, there is a strong recommendation for the Commander’s removal." Cullen rubbed his face. "But, right now, I have been awake for more than a day, and I would very much like to go home and warm my feet on the dog."
"It’s why he married me, you know, so he could warm his feet on my dog." Anton grinned.
"What about Samson, Captain?" Keran asked.
"If I can get rid of her, you’re back with me, Raleigh." Cullen turned and held out a hand to the former Templar. "You were right. I just couldn’t see it, then. Couldn’t see much."