[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 345
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anders ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, Anton’s thighs of death
Notes: Today we’ve got a lust for chowder.
"He didn’t write me poetry or any of that sappy shit. He wasn’t really that kind of guy." Anders smiled sadly, squeezing Cormac’s hand as they walked. The best chowder house in Kirkwall was down past the pier, and they’d come out just for that, just the two of them, because Cormac insisted Anders didn’t get out enough, and Anders couldn’t help but agree, after a good many protestations about his patients and his work. "Instead, he’d slip refutations of political arguments and tiny treatises on psychological warfare into my books, when I wasn’t looking. But, you know, I knew what he meant. It was the same thing I meant when I’d distract the templars, so he could get into the books we weren’t supposed to have access to. And then Elfhole would finish up by flooding the corner of a room with wasps. I swear, for years they thought we had a wasp infestation in the walls. It was great."
Anders paused, looking out over the sea, between ships. "But, you were right. I loved him. I thought we could get away. I thought when they sent him up here, they’d just made it easier for us — he wanted to go north, and I’d go anywhere, if I could stay with him. But, you know what happened. You were there."
"I’m sorry, sweet thing. Maybe we should’ve done something different, but it’s a little late for that, now." Cormac tipped his head, resting it against Anders’s shoulder. "And now you’re stuck with me. Alas, the horror!"
"I like you. I could be happy with you, for the rest of my life. Just… not here. Not like this. Something’s got to change."
"By which you mean the templars, and I second that." Cormac rubbed his thumb along the side of Anders’s fingers. "That mean you love me, too?"
"Don’t be an asshole," Anders scoffed, shoving Cormac off with his elbow.
"Good. I’d hate to do that to you." Cormac smiled to himself, just enjoying the sea air.
For a moment, things were peaceful. The chowder warmed a line down Anders’s throat and settled in his stomach with a warm glow. With talk of Karl came an ache in his chest, but it was a familiar ache, one he almost found comforting by now. But even as Anders closed his eyes against the wind, Justice was vigilant in the back of his mind.
Justice drew his attention to the pair of toughs loitering under the eaves of a nearby warehouse. Anders didn’t pay them any mind, at first. They were exactly the sort he’d seen around the Docks or drinking in the Hanged Man. But once he noticed them, he couldn’t un-notice, and he could feel their stares when they thought he wasn’t looking.
Anders reached for his staff, bowl balanced in his other hand. His first fear — his first thought — was that they’d figured out he was a mage. For a blood-chilling second, he worried they would tell the templars, before he remembered that the templars already knew and had known for a while.
"Are we being watched, or am I being paranoid?" Anders asked conversationally, trying to decide how he could balance staff, bowl, and spoon in two hands.
"Two of them, to the right. Three more, maybe by the crates on the edge of the pier. They might just be waiting for somebody, though." Cormac didn’t look concerned, but Cormac almost never looked concerned. "Don’t worry about your staff. If they make a move, just throw the chowder at them, first."
"But, that’s my chowder!" Anders protested. "I’m not throwing good hot food on trashy thugs!"
"Then eat faster," Cormac suggested. "They’re just a bunch of guys, right? Nothing interesting?" It was Kirkwall, and Cormac’s concerns were primarily about demons, as usual. There was an unusual prevalence of demons, in the city. At least he thought it was unusual, but he hadn’t spent much time in actual cities, over the years.
"Denerim wasn’t like this, was it? With the demons?" he asked Anders, between slurps of chowder. "Or Amaranthine?"
"No, those were both considerably less demon-y," Anders answered, scraping up another spoonful of chowder, "though colourful in their own ways. More darkspawn. Or at least the threat of darkspawn. Amaranthine had more cats, though." As he chewed, Anders considered Justice’s reaction. Concerned but not glowy. "Just guys," he confirmed. "Guys in dreadful need of a shave and possibly a bath, but guys."
The pair Anders had first spotted idly approached as though they’d heard this insult, but Anders kept on eating his chowder. He also kept on eating his chowder when the other three ambled over just as slowly, hemming in him and Cormac.
Of course. He knew it’d been too peaceful.
"Lovely day for a fish stew, isn’t it, boys?" Cormac glanced at them as if he hadn’t a care in the world, one finger tracing patterns on the far side of his bowl, as he kept eating, and the shield came up around Anders.
"Pity you ain’t gonna finish yours." The man in the middle spoke Common like it was his third language, with a thick accent from somewhere up north.
"Yes, but it’s only because I’m going to share," Cormac replied, hand already in motion to toss the chowder into the face of the man next to the one talking. "Didn’t your mother ever teach you the benefits of sharing?"
The thug wearing the chowder lunged, only to be brought up short by a green glow under his feet. Feet that would no longer lift off the ground.
"What do you think, pretty thing? Cover them in oil and leave them for the gulls?" Cormac smiled warmly at Anders, as if there were nothing wrong at all.
Anders took a long, contemplative sip of his chowder, looking for all the world like he didn’t have a spell ready, on the edge of his lips. "The gulls have been looking like they could use the company," he answered in a similar tone.
The thug stuck to the ground stared at them, eyes round, while his companions paused behind him. "Mages," one hissed as he took a step back. He hadn’t planned on crossing mages.
"You sound like a friend of mine," Anders replied, scraping up the last bit of food and spooning it into his mouth. "Yes, ‘mages’. That would be why interrupting our chowder was a bad idea." His smile bared too many teeth to be friendly.
The shadows in the alley across the way stirred, and a crossbow bolt slammed into the guardrail Cormac had rested his bowl on, taking out the flaming pot of citron balanced on the support beside it. With foul-smelling wax now splashed across the remains of his chowder, Cormac was quite through trying to enjoy his evening. "Oh, how nice! You brought friends!"
The glaive was already in his hand, by the time he finished turning around, and a couple more arrows failed to connect with his flesh. As the thugs near them backed away, Cormac stuck them to the ground, before turning his attention to the alley. The archers had failed, and now the rest of the gang piled out of the narrow space between a pair of warehouses. Cormac sighed. He tried so hard not to use too much magic in public, but there were more than ten angry thugs rushing them, and it was only him and Anders.
As the thugs raced across the road, yet more of them gathering from another alley, Cormac laid out the largest grease spell he could manage, and watched several of them introduce themselves firmly to the cobblestones. An oil spill wouldn’t be that difficult to pass off as an easy coincidence, around here.
The sight of the thugs slipping and sliding and scrabbling at the walls brought a smile to Anders’s face. "Sometimes I forget that spell has a combat application," he said. He reached for lightning, only to pause mid-cast. Lightning and grease. That had not ended well last time. The memory distracted him a moment, face going pale, while the thugs found solid ground again, looking less than pleased at their new bruised and greasy state.
A shout echoed down at them from overhead, and before Anders could decide that he knew that shout, he caught sight of Anton bracing himself on a windowsill on the second storey. "What…?" Anders started to ask, before Anton leapt from the window, howling a wordless battle-cry. He landed on the shoulders of a surprised ruffian, legs wrapping around his neck and chin as he bore him to the ground, throwing himself off the guy’s shoulders, sideways, as they fell. "What," Anders said again, leaving it as a statement this time.
The thug’s neck broke, from the force of Anton suddenly falling to the side and then down, his chin pointing back over his shoulder, by the time Anton’s back hit the ground. Anders stared in horror at the scene unfolding before him, with just enough presence of mind to flick a stun across the crowd rushing toward them, before Anton threw his own knees back over his head, rolling to his feet and slamming the corpse between his thighs against the woman running up on him with her sword raised.
"Did you miss me?" Anton called out, finally untangling himself from the corpse and reaching down to slice the neck of the warrior he’d knocked to the ground.
"If I did, it’s because I wasn’t trying to hit you," Cormac joked, tripping a thug with his glaive and then slamming the butt of it into the man’s face.
"So, what’d you do this time?" Anton asked, rolling out of the way, to let one swordsman take a chunk out of another.
"I’m really not sure!" Cormac carved through the chest of one thug, shoving him back onto the grease, and into two more, who did not recover fast enough to keep their heads.
"I think they just really wanted some chowder," Anders quipped distractedly, punching one thug square in the nose when he got too close. A follow-up kick knocked the man out cold.
"Ooh, chowder?" Anton’s eyes brightened. "Can’t say I blame them. I’d murder for the local chowder." His grin was just this side of unsettling. Flipping a knife in his hand, Anton looked around, making sure they’d gotten the last of them. "Aveline should really be paying us guard wages at this rate."
"That would make her your captain," Anders pointed out, "and you already have one."
"Sometimes many nights a week." Anton waggled his eyebrows. He nudged one of the limp bodies at his feet and crouched to rifle through his pockets. "But honestly. That’s an awful lot of idiots for a simple mugging"
"So, do what you do, Anton. Why are they after us?" Cormac leaned on his glaive, debating another bowl of chowder. That was the nice thing about being well-off, he’d noticed. He never had to worry about losing food to unfortunate circumstances — there was always money for more.
Anton shook his head, moving between corpses, still rifling pockets. "I don’t—" He unfolded a piece of paper from one of them. "Oh, hello. It’s a bounty notice." Looking up at his brother, he held it out. "For Fenris."
"Shit." Anders rubbed his face. "Everyone thinks Danarius is still alive, so the bounty’s still good."
"Yeah, but what’s that got to do with us? We’re not exactly elfy. Not really a case of mistaken identity," Cormac pointed out.
"Well, you do make a good hostage," Anton joked, pocketing a handful of coins.
Cormac huffed, but didn’t say a word.
"Taking Cormac and myself as hostages?" Anders said, putting a hand to his chest in mock horror. "Fenris would probably laugh and let them keep us." Not true, of course, and even Anders knew it. He would probably laugh, however.
Anton poked through a few more pockets, tutting when all he found was lint and a snotty handkerchief. "They likely just saw the opportunity and seized it." He shrugged, straightening and stretching his back. "Doesn’t look like they thought this out too well. But — hmm. I think I know this gang. ‘The Reining Men’ or something equally ridiculous. Izzy tussled with them a couple times, I hear."
"Is this all of them, do you think?" Anders asked, humour gone. "Or should we bring some muscle along the next time we go out for chowder?"
"More to the point, if this isn’t all of them, should we go make a point that our brother-in-law is not to be fucked with?" Cormac asked, finally shouldering his glaive.
"Or that we’re not to be fucked with, which I think is much more applicable, right now," Anders pointed out. "Fenris will probably just be sorry he missed this fight. Slave-hunters?"
"I propose we have more chowder," Anton said, looking down the pier. "A nice uninterrupted bowl of it. And then let’s go get Fenris and introduce him to the rest of these idiots. If nothing else, I can make a killing in wagers alone."
"And he can make a much more literal killing or twelve." A tiny smile crossed Anders’s face.