[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 333
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: Anders is finally called upon to explain Justice. Cullen makes a decision.
And as quickly as it had begun, it was over. The fire vanished, sputtering out with a hollow pop, and Justice still stood closer than any other, just out of range of the worst of the heat, holding Cormac over his shoulder. The air was a little too warm to be pleasant, yet, and Justice followed the dribble of the liquid sand with a layer of ice that evaporated into steam.
"That is not normal," Keran said, voice a bit higher than usual. "And he’s glowing again. Captain, why is the Warden glowing again?"
Cullen didn’t have an answer. At least, not an answer he liked. That was, perhaps, something to be investigated later, when the air didn’t stink of melted sand.
"Seriously," Samson said, addressing Justice instead of Cullen, "what the fuck?"
Blazing blue eyes turned Samson’s way. Staring at Justice’s eyes was like staring into the sun. "NO," Justice boomed gravely.
"No?" Samson echoed, squinting at the glowing mage.
"FUCKING IS NOT SOMETHING ONE DOES IN PUBLIC."
Anton choked on a horrified laugh before clapping a hand over his mouth.
Cormac, on the other hand, cackled like a loon. "Aw, and here I was hoping you hadn’t caught on to that yet," he laughed, wiggling his hips against Justice’s shoulder.
"Oh, that’s hilarious," Samson sneered.
"He’s not joking," Bethany sighed. She slipped an arm through Justice’s. "Justice, my dear, that’s not what Ser Samson meant." Justice only managed to look confused.
"Justice?" Cullen’s eyes narrowed. "Like the spirit, Justice?" His mind reeled with the implications. Usually, mages were possessed by Pride, Desire, Rage, Fear… Justice was a new one for him, but… "You’re an abomination." The words slipped out the moment they came to him.
"Now you sound like my husband," Artemis said with a strained laugh. "He doesn’t look like an abomination now, does he? Sure he’s glowy, but at least all his features are in the right place."
"Not an abomination. Not a demon." Cormac may have been struggling with propriety and magic, yet, but some things he knew. You don’t say ‘demon’ in front of Justice, and you don’t let the templars decide he’s an abomination. "He’s a spirit healer, for Andraste’s sake. It’s just most spirit healers end up with Compassion, and he got, well, Justice."
"I AM A SPIRIT OF JUSTICE," Justice confirmed, still looking confused. "I FIGHT FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT FIGHT FOR THEMSELVES, INCLUDING ANDERS. I SEEK EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW FOR ALL SENTIENT CREATURES OF THE WORLD, INCLUDING YOU." He eyed Samson. "YOU WERE WRONGED. I HAVE HEARD YOU CRYING OUT FOR JUSTICE, FOR FAIR TREATMENT, FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. TELL ME, KNIGHT-CAPTAIN, WAS THIS MAN TREATED AS THE LAW INSTRUCTS? IS THE LAW JUST?"
"I, er…" Cullen stammered. "It was… that is to say…" He edged behind Anton, sweat pooling along his collarbone. "The law is just. The Chantry’s law is the law of all Thedas, at its roots, and we must believe it is just, to go on. The application of the law was unjust. Just laws in the hands of zealots and the wicked."
Justice smiled at Samson, finally understanding something about this entire confusing series of events. "THEN I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU, AS WELL."
"Erm… thank you?" Samson replied, looking terribly uncomfortable. Justice tipped his head, looking terribly pleased.
Cullen still didn’t know how to feel about this. Anders was a spirit healer, true, but for a spirit to take over, to use his magic in a violent way… That was unsettling, not to mention dangerous. And why was this called a ‘Warden thing’ if it simply had to do with spirit magic?
Cullen could feel Anton’s eyes on him, and he wondered what he was missing, here. But the ground shifted again before he could ask.
"Oh, don’t tell me there are more skeletons," Artie groaned, even though he was grateful for something to break the tension. "The sand has been liquefied. That means no more popping out of the ground."
But the creature that rose didn’t so much claw its way out as float its way to the surface. It wasn’t a skeleton, but it was no less undead.
"At least it’s not a revenant," Anton said, painfully cheerful.
Cormac squinted around Justice’s hip. "For reference, that, right there, is a demon. And we’re gonna kick its ass."
Bethany struck first, a twist of her fan causing the thing to wobble. "Cullen? It has magic."
"So do you," He reminded her.
"Do it anyway," Bethany insisted, folding the fan and taking her spear in both hands, as the horror began to draw the remains of its power together for something she didn’t want to see the effect of. "That’s—"
Keran followed through, and Cormac threw up down the back of Justice’s coat. "Sorry," Keran muttered.
"Thank you, Ser Keran." Bethany lunged forward with her spear, engaging the horror’s attention. "My brother will recover."
Justice didn’t even blink, laying bolt after bolt on the horror, between Bethany’s strikes.
Bethany drew her spear back for another stab, but her blade met with air. The creature had disappeared into thin air. Then there was a shift of pressure, and Bethany’s ears popped. Before she could turn, the spell hit her square in the back, knocking her forward to land on her knees with a grunt of pain.
Cullen leapt between the creature and his sister-in-law, sword cutting through the meat of its chest — whatever meat there was, anyway — and it staggered back with an unearthly shriek. Keran dived in next to his captain, and the two of them cut the horror into smaller and smaller chunks, until it stopped waving its arms and attempting to cast.
Artemis helped his sister to her feet, pausing to dust off the edge of her skirts.
"Spirit bolt," she tutted, flexing her back and wincing. "So that’s what it feels like on this end. Hm."
"Yeah, it’s not fun," Samson muttered distractedly as he stared at the ground, sword still in hand. He waited, but the ground had stopped moving.
"THE DEMON HAS PASSED," Justice announced, solemnly.
"Yeah, but what about the next one? Are they just going to keep coming?" Samson asked, glancing around.
"No, no, he does that," Anton said. "He means he can’t find any more demons here. They’re attracted to him, and he… I dunno, smells them or something. It’s really handy when you’re getting mobbed by shades."
"I FEel them," Justice started, and Anders finished, dropping suddenly to his knees, as the light went out. He leaned forward, resting a hand on the ground and giving up on holding Cormac up. "I hear darkspawn and I feel demons. I should also note that I hate Kirkwall. It never shuts up."
Cormac eased himself off Anders’s shoulders, to kneel, already under Anders’s shoulder. He ran a hand through Anders’s hair. "Sorry about the fire," he murmured.
Anders glanced over his shoulder. "Please don’t try to kill me. That went really poorly, last time, and I didn’t die from it. I’d really rather not have to do that again. I still have chest pains."
"From the sword," Cormac explained, probably unnecessarily. "Last time he got stabbed through the heart."
"I don’t want trouble," Anders sighed. "I just want to help people. I have a clinic for the poor. I heal prostitutes for free. I just want to live in a world where people are well and get some basic respect. I just want to make Kirkwall a little less of a festering midden-heap of foulness and despair. I spent long enough locked in a tower in the land of dogs and dogshit. I’ve had enough of the stink."
Cullen was torn. Years as a templar, following the laws of the Chantry, had taught him that a possessed mage was dangerous and ought to be put to death. And yet… years as Anders’s friend made him question that. Life in Kirkwall had made him question so many things, and he could no longer see where black became white amid the grey. He wasn’t sure if that made him a better templar or a worse one.
"You are a Warden," Cullen finally settled on, "and therefore outside my jurisdiction. My judgement does not matter here." A non-decision, but the best he could do for everyone involved.
"Captain?" Samson said, brows knitting. He didn’t ask, but he didn’t need to, not with a look on his face that asked it for him: ‘that’s it?’
"It’s not my decision," Cullen repeated, more firmly. Anders’s whole body sagged in relief. Cullen knew he owed the man anyway, after those weeks in the dungeon. His had been the actions of a good man, not a demon. "But I will keep an eye on the situation."
Samson frowned but did not argue, while Keran still looked too rattled to say anything.
"Complaints can be registered with my cousin," Anton provided, kneeling down to get a better look at the very shiny belt buckle on a piece of the horror. "Warden-Commander Solona Amell, Teyrn of Gwaren, Arl of Amaranthine. She’s got a lot of titles, my cousin does."
"Yeah," Cormac agreed. "Solona’s his boss. She knows what he is."
"This is what the Wardens use to fight the Blight?" Samson asked, in what might have been a scoff, had it not turned serious halfway through.
"You’re a templar. You know the history." Anders pushed himself to his feet, tugging Cormac up with him. "The Circle was created to train mages as weapons against the Blights. Designed by Emperor Drakon, himself, right from the start of the Chantry. A lot of that’s been lost. Funny thing? It’s not lost to the Wardens." Anders flashed his teeth. It was almost a smile. Almost. And what he’d said wasn’t bullshit, it just wasn’t the answer to the question being asked.
"So, Anders and his stupid Warden tricks aside, has anyone ever seen an arcane horror wearing a Dalish belt buckle?" Anton tugged the belt off the thing and held it up. "I’m pretty sure that’s Dalish. And the leather’s pretty new."
Cormac staggered over for a closer look and sat down hard.
"An interesting fashion choice," Bethany said, trying to peek at it over Anton’s shoulder. The design was weathered, the filigree worn, but it looked relatively clean and well-kept for its age, which, as far as Bethany could tell, was old. How old, she couldn’t be sure. "Merrill might like it."
"Theron too," Artemis added speculatively.
"I’m not sure how much use that would be to him," Anders said, "since he’d need to keep his pants on to wear it."
Artie blushed up to the tips of his ears, clearing his throat awkwardly at the curious glances from Samson and Keran. "This is a point," he muttered, suddenly finding the ground interesting. "Merrill, then. I am certainly in favour of her keeping her pants on, at least in my company."
"Merrill?" Keran repeated, head tipping back as he considered. "Is this Carver’s Merrill?"
Anton looked up in surprise before tossing the belt, buckle and all, into Cormac’s lap. "He’s mentioned her?"
"Just once or twice," Keran said with a shrug. "And… just to me from what I can tell." His face smoothed over in realisation. "Why, is it a secret? She’s not an apostate, is she?" He wouldn’t have thought it of Carver, but that was before finding out three of his four siblings were apostates themselves. Sweet Andraste.
"She’s an elf," Bethany answered. "Mother hadn’t been too thrilled with the match while she’d been alive."
"Of course, why she got bent out of shape about Carver, when she didn’t have a thing to say about Artie’s elf, I’ll never know." Anton shook his head. "I guess I’m glad she missed the wedding, though. Hey, Cormac? Do me a favour and don’t get married. This wedding thing isn’t working out well for us. The being married part is great, but the weddings…"
"The worst thing about your wedding was you, Anton," Bethany pointed out. "You swung down from the roof and Ser Cullen almost stabbed you with someone else’s sword!"
"I much prefer when he stabs me with his own sword." Anton wiggled his eyebrows.
Cullen rubbed a hand over his face and shot a glance at Samson. "In case you wondered where Ser Carver gets it, the entire family is like this."
"I’ve only met him once." Samson shrugged.
"If I can get you back with us, you’ll come to wonder." Cullen shook his head. "Is that it, then? Are we done, here? Can someone please gag my husband before any more words come out of his mouth?"
"I’m sure you can find a better way to keep me quiet, darling husband," Anton replied with a devilish grin.
"Words like that," Cullen sighed. Anton blew him a kiss that he pretended not to see.
"I hope all your family outings aren’t like this," Keran said with a nervous laugh that said he was only partly joking.
Artie patted Keran’s shoulder. "Ask Carver about the Vimmark Mountains sometime."