[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 332
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Keran ♂, Samson ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D2)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, an awful lot of magebane, Cormac no, Justice yes
Notes: Another note from the Scholar. Another binding disrupted.
On the way down the coast, back toward Kirkwall, Cormac was an absolute disaster. Thankfully, he was enough of a disaster that no one who hadn’t been there would take the factual parts of what came out of his mouth as anything more than the ramblings of a lunatic. It was that, as much as anything, that got them lost.
"I told you it was the last turn," Samson muttered, looking around the boulder-strewn cliff-edge. He took another sip of the lyrium potion, as he’d been doing every so often, along the way. "Corpses, too. Wonderful. Delightful place, the Wounded Coast. I thought the guard ran patrols up here. Makes me glad I’m not much for leaving town."
"They do," Anton pointed out, crouching next to the body to pull a roll of parchment from between its shoulder and a stone. "You should’ve seen it before." He unrolled the scrolls and squinted at it. "The first one’s… Ander? Chasind? Alamarri? I can’t tell. It’s not Common."
Samson looked over his shoulder. "And the second one looks like blood magic."
Bethany held out her hand and sighed, and Anders said, "Give me that."
"I find blood magic and two mages immediately want it. Isn’t that just like your kind?" Samson muttered.
"It’s on a corpse, serah. It might just be death magic." Bethany flicked her fan, trying to chase off the stench of the corpse. The eye-roll, however was still visible over the top of it.
"And I’m the closest thing you’re going to find to a freaky Tevinter bullshit specialist for miles in any direction," Anders pointed out. "Also, as you might have noticed from my name, if it’s in Ander, I can read it."
Anton handed the first page to Anders and the second to his sister. "And I know nothing about any of these things."
"And that’s… no, I think that might be Alamarri. It’s almost Fereldan, but I wouldn’t bet that all the words mean quite what I’d expect them to." Anders looked at Artemis, uneasiness dawning in his eyes. "Do you recall the evening we spent with a certain elf of my acquaintance?" He held up the scroll. "You don’t happen to read Alamarri, do you?"
"I read Chasind," Cormac mumbled, still slung over Anders’s shoulder like a sack of pickled eggs. "Gimmie it."
"Cormac, I barely trust you to remember your name between one sentence and the next, right now," Anders sighed. "I ask again: Do you read Alamarri, Artie, or am I stuck entrusting this to the loose collection of meat that will turn back into your brother, at some point?"
"Screw you," Cormac grumbled.
"Later," Anders replied, without thinking.
"Er…" Artemis hedged, eyeing the page distrustfully as he took it. "Only a few words. Cormac was always better with that sort of thing." He paused, scanning the page. "Okay. I know that word. That word means ‘the’."
Anders sighed dramatically and took the paper back from Artie, handing it to Cormac over his head. "Collection of meat it is."
"In my defence, my Orlesian is much more impressive," Artemis insisted.
Cormac twisted to reach it, but finally managed to get a grip on the page. And a firm grip it was, before Anders was willing to let go. "Yeah, that’s Chasind. ‘My daughter was taken by the—’ that’s either a mage or a decanter — ‘and my legion met him. She was —’ well regarded? Split apart from? — ‘his blood—’ er, that’s… blood-scribbles? Blood-papers? — ‘but some horror did inhabit him instead.’ Okay, ‘horror’. That one I know for sure. I’m very good at that word. ‘My legion could not contain?’ Is that a euphemism? Because that’s a Chasind euphemism that I don’t want to think about in this context. ‘—and I ask for a seal, whatever the faith. The price is paid, Scholar.’ This sounds horribly familiar and mostly horrible." He handed the page to Bethany and stopped using his elbows to keep his face off Anders’s back.
"That actually almost made sense," Anders told him. "I’m impressed, Cormac."
"That does sound familiar, though," Artemis said warily. "Oh! Is this the first scroll? We found scrolls two and three, didn’t we? We are doing this horribly backwards. This had better not be scroll four or the order is completely off."
"You’ve encountered something like this before?" Bethany asked, eyes still on the scroll with the blood-red writing. Not just blood-red, she realised, but blood.
"You could say that," Anders said. "What’s yours say?"
Bethany cleared her throat. "‘Of binding a symptom, no vial can contain you. One of three, separated in prevention. Unbound, but caged, I must not follow. Truth will hold you, for that is what truth does.’ You are right about this being one of three. What does this mean?"
"What do any of those words mean?" Samson grumbled.
"We’re going to have to kill something, aren’t we?" Anton asked. "That’s what usually happens when something mysterious and magicky appears. Yes?" He looked around, one dagger already in hand.
"Give that to Artie, Bethy," Anders suggested. "Yeah. We’re going to kill something. We’d better kill something, really, or it’s going to mangle a whole lot of people. I hope there’s only one this time, and I hope it’s not a revenant."
"A revenant," Samson scoffed. "Those aren’t real."
"You just keep thinking that," Cormac muttered.
"Revenant? What’s a revenant?" Keran asked, looking around the group.
"A demon-possessed corpse that throws you at its own sword, and it’s got great aim," Anders filled in. "And I sorely wish they were made up, at this point."
"I have shields!" Cormac declared. "We’re fine!"
"Cormac, you have all the magical ability of a turnip, right now, and since I don’t know how much magebane they gave you or when, I’d rather not get stuck depending on your currently-mythical magical talents." Anders huffed, watching Samson and Keran consider all that.
Artemis took the page from Bethany and studied the squiggles at the bottom of the page, squiggles in a rough approximation of the Wounded Coast. "Looks like we’re not too far away from whatever-it-is." He really hoped it wasn’t a revenant. "But… should we really be dealing with this while Cormac is here and… like this?" He gestured vaguely at his brother, still slung over Anders’s shoulder.
"If it’s a revenant," Cullen said, "best to take care of it before it hurts someone. There are enough of us to subdue such a threat even without Cormac. Or… even with Cormac, I suppose."
Artemis still looked unsure, concerned, but Bethany nodded in agreement. "Fine," he sighed, and pointed them in the right direction.
"I could subdue all kinds of things! Ask Anders!" Cormac protested, one hand groping Anders’s bottom as the Warden walked.
"Please, don’t ask Anders," Anders sighed. "I’d tell you to save it until we get home, but I’ve been loaded with that much magebane, and I suspect you honestly can’t tell."
They followed Artemis up the coast, Keran watching Cormac in amusement, as Bethany tried to get her brother to say more and more terrible things, and Cullen looking contemplative, as he tried to ignore all that.
"Was I this bad?" Anders asked, interrupting Cullen’s reverie. "Do you even know?"
"I don’t know, but I heard you were worse." Cullen looked a little grim, at the question. "I swear I don’t know. But, you were … I know how much they were giving you."
"You’re really a Circle mage?" Samson asked, finally. "Like, you’re not just putting me on?"
"Was," Anders clarified. "Past tense. I ran off to join the Wardens."
"You ran off." Samson turned a sharp look on Cullen. "He ran off? What were you doing at the time?"
"Don’t look at me! I was catching a blood mage!" Cullen managed to look both embarrassed and offended. "Or, trying to, anyway…"
"Did you ever catch up with Jowan?" Anders asked. "I meant to thank him for that opening."
"You consort with blood mages?" Samson looked horrified.
"Well, it’s not like any of us knew he was one, at the time!" Anders protested, shrugging and jostling Cormac. "By the time I knew, I was halfway out the door, wearing that new recruit’s armour! Or, some of it anyway. Those skirts hide a lot of sins, you know."
"Like Varric says: ‘Mages, templars, it’s all a bunch of guys with tower fetishes, wearing skirts,'" Cormac declared.
"Says the mage, in a skirt," Artemis said over his shoulder, "though I’d rather not know about your fetishes."
"I know too much about his fetishes," Anton said with a pained look. Bethany nodded solemnly.
Artie slowed, squinting at the map, and Cullen nearly stepped on his heels. "Not to change the subject," Artie said wryly, "but it looks like we should be coming up on whatever-it-is soon. I think. This drawing isn’t exactly to scale, and that bend here could mean a turn up ahead… or is that just a smudge? Blood really isn’t the best medium to write in—"
While Artemis rambled, the ground began to shift, dirt buckling and giving way, a skeletal hand punching its way through the earth. Cullen put a hand on Artie’s shoulder, and Artemis let him pull him to a stop as he lowered the map.
"Well," Artie muttered. "That’s a hand. And another hand." And an elbow. And a shoulder. And an entire fucking skeleton. "Bethy, please tell me these are yours?" Another skeleton punched his way to the surface as he spoke.
"No. Sorry," Bethany replied, hefting her spear.
"I see." A clench of Artie’s fist, and three undead skulls smacked into the ground.
"Right," Cullen muttered. Another hand clawed through the ground by his feet, and Cullen stomped that hand into pieces.
"Nope! No revenants throwing us on swords!" Cormac announced, trying to find enough magic to cast something. Anything.
The corpses continued to clamber out of the ground, faster and from more difficult places. "Demons," Samson muttered.
"I concur. Demons," Anders agreed, trying to figure out the best way to fight and not drop Cormac at the same time. Perhaps he’d stick to casting spells from the back. He whipped a sheet of ice across another pair of hands and stepped back, slamming Cormac directly into Cullen’s chestplate.
"I am not a sack of turnips!" Cormac complained.
Cullen staggered away, drawing his sword. Skeletons. Was a sword even the right weapon for this? Somewhere, someone probably knew that, but it wasn’t him.
With a roar of triumph, Cormac finally felt a spark of magic, and used it. The sands before them and the risen dead still climbing up out of those sands were suddenly saturated in an epic volume of grease that rained down from mid-air. There was a pause and Cormac filled the silence, almost immediately. "That is not my shield! I wanted my shield, you bastard!"
"Shouting at the magic isn’t going to help, Cormac," Anders choked out, trying not to laugh as he laid more ice across the undead.
"These aren’t the kind of bones you grease, Cormac!" Anton said, punching a skeleton with the hilt of his dagger.
"Grease?" Artie echoed. He tried to rein in his chained lightning, but electricity was already dancing from his fingertips. Lightning struck a cluster of skeletons, snaking between his friends and family without singeing them… at least not until sparks caught on the grease and lit up the doused undead like torches.
Anton and the templars swore, stepping back away from the flames, while Anders went ghost-pale and hollow-eyed. Breathing. That was a thing he should do. He clutched Cormac tight, the spell he’d been casting dissipating, unfinished.
"Shit, shit, shit," Anton cussed, backing away from a flailing skeleton. "First we had undead attacking us. Now we have undead on fire attacking us!"
"It was an accident!" Artemis insisted, shoving the skeletons back out of flailing range. "Anders! Ice! Could you—?" Artie turned, catching the look in Anders’s eyes just before they flickered to blue. "Shit."
"I already said that! Get your own swears!" Anton said, eyes wide and wild.
"Oh fuck you. And fuck this. Cormac!"
"What? I can’t see anything! Something something fire and undead?" Cormac smacked his nose on the top of Anders’s hip, trying to get a look. Fire… Fire and… oh no. "Anders? You all right?"
Blue light crawled across Anders’s skin, and the glow on the ground was enough to tell Cormac he was too late. "FIRE," Justice said, contemplatively. "WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?" He sounded more confused than angry, for a change.
"It was an accident!" Cormac groaned. "Come on, don’t do this now. Don’t do this when I can’t watch you do this…"
"Really, Cormac? You’re going to do that now?" Anton sounded less than entirely thrilled, as he leapt back from the flaming hands of a skeleton in a battered Tevinter helmet almost a thousand years out of date.
"Come on, gorgeous. It’s hardly fair. I’m right here, and I don’t even get to watch?" Cormac ignored his brother, focusing entirely on getting Justice’s attention. But, Justice was intent on the undead.
Memories flooded Justice’s mind. He couldn’t call the raising of a corpse an innately evil act, without condemning himself. But, these were demons. This was one demon, unless his perceptions were skewed. Parts of a whole, but not the thing entire. "STEP BACK," he commanded, and Bethany tugged Keran and Samson out of the fight, trusting her brothers to move on their own.
The blaze intensified in their wake, a pillar of lightening flame, no longer red and yellow but blue and white. The bones splintered, bits of armour and shields melted, dried flesh instantly turned to ash. The sand beneath them burbled and spit, becoming a thick liquid.