[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 364
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cullen ♂, Meredith ♀, Ella ♀, Keran ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Discussions of blowing shit up, discussions of mass-murder
Notes: Ella learns Meredith’s next plan, and Cullen must make a decision. Anders makes a very different decision, and Cormac checks his plans for sense and reason.
"Girl!" Meredith hadn’t bothered learning Ella’s name, even after she became Cullen’s assistant. Really, it suited Ella just fine. The Tranquil were invisible, and she was invisible right along with them.
"Take these down to Archives." Meredith gestured with a stack of pages, a few tabs sticking out between them, with filing notes. She didn’t look up from the papers on her desk. "And tell Captain Cullen to stop screwing around with his husband and bring me the summaries from last week."
Ella took the pages and nodded deeply. "Commander, it’s Sunday. The summaries always arrive on Monday."
"Because he’s walking proof why we’re supposed to give up our affiliations outside the order. How I appointed such a lazy captain, I’m not sure. Perhaps I should replace him." Meredith eyed the stack of paperwork on the corner of her desk. "But, then I’d have to waste the time teaching someone else to do his job. What is wrong with the men in this city? None of them have any strength of will! None of them have any backbone or righteous certainty!" She huffed and waved Ella out of the office.
"I will give him your instructions, Commander," Ella said, voice as blank as her face. The last thing she or any of the other mages needed was another Knight-Captain, particularly one chosen by Meredith, but every week Meredith found something new to whine about when it came to Cullen and had only acted on it once.
Meredith had already gone back to her paperwork, and she didn’t so much as glance up when Ella backed out of the room, didn’t notice when Ella thumbed through the papers in her hand. Which was for the best, Ella decided, since she wasn’t sure she was quite able to keep the horrified look off her face. Smoothing her face back into something neutral — or as close to neutral as she could — Ella kept walking, not towards the archives, but towards Cullen’s office.
She slipped in and closed the door behind her, leaning on it, as Cullen looked up from his own work. At the table before the file cabinets, Keran was on his feet in an instant.
"Have they tried again?" Keran asked, crossing the room. "Have they hurt you?"
Ella shook her head and held out the papers, rattling the stack, wordlessly, until Keran took them. He helped her back to his chair, but she wouldn’t sit, springing back up after a moment, and pacing.
"Shit," Keran breathed, looking at the top of the third page. "Captain, she’s done it. The Commander’s sent for the Right of Annulment."
"Well, she’s not going to get it," Cullen scoffed, finally standing to read over Keran’s shoulder. "This makes it sound like the mages are rioting in the corridors every night. I think I’d have heard if that were actually happening."
"You don’t think Grand Cleric Elthina’s going to pass judgement on just this, do you?" Keran asked. "I mean, maybe you and the First Enchanter should go talk to her. If the Commander just filed today, you can probably beat the runners. I don’t think this is going to get there until afternoon, when the handoffs at the bridge happen."
"She wouldn’t possibly agree to this," Cullen said with a certainty he didn’t quite feel. So far, if there was one thing he could trust Elthina to be, it was useless. If Meredith pushed too hard, Cullen couldn’t be sure Elthina wouldn’t be cowed. "It is absurd. But… a meeting with her and with Orsino would not be remiss. Meredith is getting out of hand."
An understatement, but Cullen worried what news was making it back to the Divine. Anton had told him all about the Divine’s Right Hand and her visit, the threat of an Exalted March that hung over their heads.
"Keran, stay here with Ella," Cullen said, marching for the door. "I’m going to have a word with the First Enchanter. You did well to bring this to me, Ella. Thank you."
Cormac came down the stairs, half-expecting to find Justice bent over that too-small desk, blindly writing and tossing finished pages to the side, only half-blotted. That was fairly usual for this time of the day. He was armed with a tray of sandwiches and a small bowl of soup — soup usually wasn’t a good idea around Justice; he tended to get distracted and knock it over. But, Cormac was going to try to get them to come to bed, and this particular vinegary maize soup was something Anders would take a few minutes from anything but the most critical patients to have a bowl of.
"How’s my blazing blue tower of righteousness, tonight?" he asked, swaggering into the room, only to find Anders standing before a map hung from the side of a bookcase, a few smaller pages clutched in one hand.
"Hmm? Oh, you’ve brought supper. You’re so good to me, you know that?" Anders smiled warmly. "Put that somewhere and come take a look at this. I need another opinion."
"What are you doing?" Cormac asked, sliding the tray onto a table and grabbing a sandwich for himself. He tore a sliver of bacon out of the side and tossed it to Purrcy.
"Arranging an accident." Anders’s smile widened. "I’ve got a letter back from Temmerin. Dworkin won’t let anyone know where to find him or what he’s up to — even Temmerin doesn’t know, but what Temmerin does know is going to be very useful."
"Temmerin… That dwarf Warden? With the kegs of dwarven boom?" Cormac’s eyes lit up, and he looked expectantly at Anders. "Okay, what are we doing, and how bad is it going to be for the rest of Kirkwall?"
"We’re going to be having our own Kirkwallian brand of ‘dwarven boom’," Anders said, smile too wide to be completely confident. Cormac had been at his side through all of this, but Anders wondered — Anders feared — that this would be the point where Cormac put his foot down and refuse. When Cormac didn’t protest, Anders held up one finger, motioning for him to wait, and returned moments later with a furled piece of parchment. Pushing his desk’s clutter to one side, Anders opened the parchment. "Do you remember when there were ‘earthquakes’ in the Chantry, and Natia and her company went to work strengthening the foundations? I… may have swiped some of their plans."
Anders let Cormac put the pieces together, and he wondered if this would be the moment Cormac said no.
Cormac nodded, looking over the plans. "How is this going to come down?" he asked, finally. "Do I need to worry about shielding the house? Is it going to blow out far enough to hit Lowtown?" He looked up at Anders. "I’m all about the symbolism, here, and the fact that if it’s done right it probably can be passed off as an accident, but you’ve saved a lot of people in this city, and I’d hate to think of us accidentally killing them all."
Anders didn’t voice his relief that Cormac was still on board, but it settled there, in his chest, making it easier to breathe. "I’m thinking just Hightown," he answered. "After all, it is all about the symbolism, as you say. But I don’t want it to look like an accident. I’m done trying to do this peacefully. If a war is what it takes for change to happen, then so be it." He didn’t hear the dissonant chord that was Justice’s voice overlaid with his. "I would, however, like to ask about your barriers. How strong are they and how many can you pull out of your ass?" He knew where Cormac’s first worry would be.
"Not enough. Not on that scale. Runes, though. If we can get runes onto the roofs of anywhere we want to save…" Cormac’s eyes slid shut and he tipped his head back. "They’re good for thirty feet, but I’d feel better with a five foot overlap. One every twenty-five feet. Hold off a while, yet. I need to talk to Sandal, and see what we can do." He scratched at his beard, looking down at the plans, again. "Still, the question remains — how far is that going to go? How concerned do I need to be? How many places do I need to be able to cover?" He crouched down to squint along a couple of the lines. "If you blow it backward, and it falls into the harbour, are we going to ruin the economy of Kirkwall? I’m all for war, if war is what we need. You know that. But, the problem with war is always what happens to the people who don’t have a stake in the outcome. We can’t fuck everyone, Anders, or we’re not going to win. We’ll be the bad guys."
Assbiter climbed up onto Cormac’s leg, tearing into the sandwich Cormac still hadn’t taken a bite of to get to the meat. Bits of bread bounced across the floor as the cat shook his head.
Anders tried to shoo the cat. "Hey! Your name is Assbiter, not Sandwichbiter." When the cat merely blinked up at him, Anders sighed and picked up the cat instead, holding him to his chest and scratching behind his ears as he frowned, considering. "The Chantry is the main thing," he said. "I know there is going to be collateral. That can’t be avoided, but I would like to minimize it." He hadn’t really considered which direction the Chantry would fall in, and he should have. He certainly was now. "So perhaps not into the harbour, unless we have it well shielded. I am… honestly uncertain of some of the logistics, still. Where should we place the explosives and how? I might need to get better acquainted with Natia." A smirk crawled onto Anders’s face. "Then again, you’re already plenty acquainted with her, aren’t you?"
"Are we trading my ass for information, now?" Cormac teased, picking the meat out of the sandwich for the cats. There would be enough left for him, even without it. "Am I to seduce her and get her to talk dirty to me about bringing down buildings?" He laughed. "I was hoping your crazy dwarven Wardens would know something about this kind of thing."
Cormac rocked backward, sandwich in one hand, bacon in the other, and at a misplaced foot from Purrcy, toppled onto the floor. "Aww, who’s a fuzzy little savage!" he cooed, holding up the bacon to distract the cat from the other half of the sandwich, as he crammed as much into his mouth as would fit in one bite.
"My crazy dwarven Wardens know plenty," Anders told him, shaking his head at this display but not lifting a finger to intervene, not this time. "Plenty about the exploding business. They, however, know less about the particulars of this one building, which Natia now knows like the back of her hand. And… speaking of my crazy dwarven Wardens — Dwardens? — I was hoping to ask for your help." Anders had been expecting to do quite a bit more wheedling before getting to this point, but Cormac was already perfectly agreeable. "The explosive calls for two more ingredients, and I could use assistance collecting them."
"Ooh, another trip up Sundermount? A couple days out in the wilds with you all to myself, and nothing to worry about except potion ingredients and the occasional half-witted bandit?" Cormac tried to keep the rest of the sandwich out of Assbiter’s way, while he talked. "I think I like this idea. I think I like it an awful lot." He paused a moment. "Yes, and you, Justice. You don’t have to sulk so loudly, just to get some magic ass for yourself."
Anders cleared his throat. "I hate to interrupt what I’m sure is a lovely fantasy, but I’m not sure how much wilds we’ll be seeing, except, perhaps, on the way to the Bone Pit. Which I mean literally and not figuratively. I know there’s Drakestone up there." He offered Cormac an apologetic look, giving Assbiter’s tail an affectionate tug just to see the offended look on his face. "Our second ingredient is in an equally romantic destination. We’ll be looking for Sela Petrae."
"Hey, I own the Bone Pit. We can bone all we want, up there. I’ll just, you know, send Janssen and the guys back to town for the weekend." Cormac grinned gamely, just in time for Purrcy to step on his forehead, trying to get to the remains of the sandwich. "Hey, hey, don’t act like we don’t feed you! I brought you each an entire fresh cod, this morning." Purrcy remained unconvinced, and finally, Cormac had to make the effort to remove the cats from his person and sit up. "Sela what now? That’s a salt, right? Another mine?"
Damn. Anders had been hoping he wouldn’t need to explain that part. "Sela Petrae," he repeated. "And it’s… well, we’re more likely to find it in the sewers, since it is, essentially, a mix of manure and urine." He offered Cormac a cringing smile.
"A romantic holiday scraping up shit in the sewers. You’ve always got the exciting ideas, don’t you?" Cormac drawled, stuffing the last of the sandwich into his mouth. "Lemme change my boots," he muttered. "Pants, too. Not wearing robes in a sewer."