[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 366
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Merrill ♀, Bethany Hawke ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence
Notes: Tuesday in Kirkwall — demons, blood magic, and the Knight-Captain.
They’d gathered in the front hall, when Bodhan announced that Cullen had arrived, and the Knight-Captain looked a little less than entirely pleased to see Anders armoured and obviously prepared for the worst Kirkwall had to offer.
"Did you bring me a sword?" Anders asked. "I should get my own, I know, but I’d really rather not accidentally disarm you in the middle of combat, because I need one."
"Demons. You dragged me up here from the Gallows, because you’re expecting ancient Tevinter demons," Cullen clarified, crossing his arms with a creak.
"I thought we might be walking into demons, and I really couldn’t think of anyone better suited to walk into that with me. We’ve done this before." Anders shrugged, taking responsibility for the idea, even if it had been Cormac’s.
"Fuck you, Anders. Really. Fuck you." Cullen sighed and shook his head.
"You missed your chance years ago, Ser Cullen." Anders’s eyes gleamed in amusement. "Is that a no? If that’s a no, give me your sword and go back to the Gallows. I won’t blame you for it. Not after Kinloch Hold."
"That’s— no. By which I mean it’s not a no. What kind of Knight-Captain would I be if I left you and what I imagine must be some assortment of my in-laws to face off against demons on your own?"
"Well—" Anders shrugged, head tilted to the side.
"That was a rhetorical question," Cullen said before Anders could find something snarky — if honest — about templars. "So where are these demons?"
"Potential demons," Anders assured him. "There might not even be demons, but with our luck it would be best to assume demons anyway. And they are beneath us. Literally. Well, I suppose figuratively too, if you want to make a moral point of it." Which Justice did, muttering in the back of his mind. "But I mean they are underneath us. That way." He pointed down at the floor.
Cullen squinted at the mage, one hand on his sword already. "There are demons in the cellar? What did you do?"
"Demons in the cellar?" Merrill asked, and Anders only realised just then that she was in the doorway, a scowling Carver in tow. "That doesn’t sound like you, Anders. Should I be worried about the cats?"
"The cats are fine," Anders rushed to say as Justice pushed aside a memory he didn’t need right now. "And the cellar is fine and currently demon-free. The demons — potential demons — are in Darktown."
"Under Darktown, really," Cormac clarified. "You know there’s another city down there, right? That’s not just under the Chantry. It’s Tevinter, it’s unlabelled, and it just became obvious recently. I’m assuming that means the wards gave out. I’m also assuming, given some studies I’m acquainted with of what’s down there, that there was a fairly significant blood sacrifice pretty much where we’re going. I’ll be honest. I don’t like the odds, and that’s why I want templars, including my charming shithead little brother."
"Die in a fire," Carver huffed.
"Might," Cormac shot back, with a pointed look.
"Oh!" Merrill looked surprised. "An ancient Tevinter demon? Carver and I … There was one on Sundermount."
"Was," Carver emphasized. "Past tense. There is no longer."
Cormac nodded. "We heard from Theron. Hell of a poet, that man."
"Why am I hearing this for the first time?" Cullen asked, looking between Carver and Merrill.
"Dalish problem." Carver shrugged. "But, she asked for some help, so I went. Good thing, too. But, that’s what she does, you know. She’s a Dalish demonologist, studying Kirkwall."
"And she’s really the best I’ve seen. How many people do you know who’ve danced with demons that’ve been here since the Tevinter occupation and are still here to talk about it? Because I can name four, and two of them are in this room." Cormac couldn’t swear how long the last demon they’d encountered in the undercity had been down there, given the fact that Tarohne might have summoned the thing herself. "So, whatever goes on down there, what I want you to hold on to is that she’s Dalish. You understand? And she’s probably keeping you alive."
There was something in Cormac’s tone that set Cullen’s teeth on edge, but he didn’t argue, merely set that observation aside.
"Oh good!" said Bethany, stepping into the room with her spear and her much more sensible shoes. "Looks like we’re all here. Shall we?"
Before any potential demons, there was a long tunnel, and Cullen was grateful for the mages and their fireless light. There was no doubt this was Tevinter and ancient, judging from the cut of the walls, the detailed stonework and inscriptions he couldn’t read but that caught the edges of the light. He thought of the last time he’d stumbled his way through ancient tunnels under Kirkwall, hunting dragons. He turned to say as much to Anton over his shoulder, only to remember that Anton wasn’t with them this time.
"You know if we find a dragon this time, he’ll never forgive me," Cullen called to the mages ahead of him.
"Maker, if we find a dragon, I’ll be relieved," Anders laughed. "We can take a dragon. We’ve got the Dragonslayer with us." He reached up and tugged Cormac’s ear. "And a healer."
"Ow! I wasn’t expecting a dragon! I was expecting a simple inspection of where we broke into the Deep Roads!" Cormac flailed with his free hand, batting at Anders’s arm. "I wasn’t expecting to need a healer! Or any of your other magnificent talents."
"And yet, just this afternoon you were talking about boning me in the Bone Pit." Anders rolled his eyes and let go to study a panel of the wall. "This is definitely before the Blights. Just look at this!" He shouldered his staff and spread his hands, lighting a decent expanse of the wall, engraved with Andoral in the sky behind the skyline of ancient Emerius, wings wrapped around the city.
"A dragon." Cullen did not sound impressed.
"Andoral," Bethany pointed out. "Tevinter’s not really my thing, but you go back far enough in Nevarran tradition, and it’s everywhere. I suspect it’s like that all over. They touched everything and left their mark behind."
"I prefer Urthemiel myself," Anders said with a glance at Cormac, somehow managing to keep a straight face.
Eventually, the tunnel opened up, rough stone giving way to smoother, if still ragged, panels, and a set of stairs emerged from the debris, leading into a chamber that Anders’s light barely touched. The air was close, oppressive with the stink of death, the sickly-sweet stench of rotten flesh, and Anders muttered another spell, feeding more energy into the light in his hand. The spell cut more shapes out of the dark, but he could hear something moving beyond its reach.
The sound of breathing, heavy and growling, and Cullen already had his sword drawn. "I swear, if this actually is a dragon…" he muttered.
There was movement out of the corner of his eye, a massive shadow, and the ground shook.
"You’re in luck, Captain," Carver said, looking up, up at the towering creature, all scales and spikes and jagged teeth. "That is definitely not a dragon."
"The seals are gone," boomed the demon — Pride, judging from the spikes, and Carver hated that he knew that now. "Foolish wards held by pretenders. Aspects. The true source is missing, the power unheld. But I… command a piece."
"Summoned a horror. Of course I did. Why wouldn’t I do that?" Cormac sighed, with a wry look at his sister.
"Horrors are pieces, slivers of greater crimes," the demon went on, focusing on Cormac. It opened its mouth to continue, but Bethany cut in.
"The true source? What do you claim to have?" she asked, eyeing the remains scattered across the floor of the chamber.
"Fragments of every fool who held a throne, here or in the black." The demon smiled — or maybe it just bared its teeth.
"Oh, shit," Cullen sighed.
"Every fool who held a— Say, you wouldn’t happen to have heard of a thing called the Pride of Kings, would you?" Anders asked, eyeing the demon contemplatively, as Justice skipped across his skin, not quite glowing, but definitely fighting for control.
"Are you kidding me?" Carver shot a glance at Anders. "This—? That guy with the…? Andraste’s tits aflame, it’s never boring in Kirkwall, is it?"
"Is it Tuesday?" Anders sighed, skin still flickering. "It must be Tuesday."
"Another Pride demon?" Merrill asked, sounding more tired than intimidated. "A bit on the large side for one, but it looks like you’ve been eating well." Grimacing, she glanced around at the mess.
"I am more than pride," said the demon, straightening to its full height, which had them all craning back their heads. "I am pride with reason. I enslave the whims and wyrds, the dreams from the other side of the Veil." Its voice filled the room. "Face me! Face everything!"
"Wait-!" Merrill called out, but she knew talking wouldn’t matter. It didn’t save Marethari, and it wouldn’t help them now.
The demon slammed its fist into the ground, hard enough to crack the stone and shake dust loose from the ceiling. Blue light lit the ground around the creature, streaming up from between cracks in the stone.
"Stick it!" Cormac shouted, gesturing with one hand as he reached for his glaive with the other. He had no idea if this would work, but it was the best idea he had — pin the thing down, strip its magic, and hammer it until it fell over.
As the blue ring faded out, a green glow replaced it, and Cormac knew Anders was paying attention. "Back, back, back!" he called, bringing up shields around Carver and Cullen. "I need you two up here. If it tries anything smite it. Anders, hold it down! Merrill, Bethy, you’re with me! We’re gonna kill it, but from over there! Away from the templars."
As they backed away, Bethany already starting a hex, Cormac tripped over a pile of sceptres and swords. Pulling out a blade, he whistled sharply and slid it across the floor toward Anders.
"Do what you need to," Cormac whispered to Merrill, as he caught up. "They’re looking away, and we have a healer."
Merrill nodded, expression grim as she sliced a finger on a sharp edge of her staff.
Carver and Cullen’s swords caught on the demon’s spikes. They sought the creature’s weak spots in the same way they would try to get past a suit of armour, slicing at joints, at the throat, but the demon batted them aside as though they were playthings. Its laughter filled the chamber, and green fire danced around its fingers.
"Is this how you seek to defeat me?" the demon scoffed as the ground opened up around them, shades clawing their way through the ground. "How disappointing."
"Of course," Bethany sing-songed, laying down another hex. "A demon always brings friends!"
Anders glanced at the sword Cormac has slid to him, but Justice picked it up. At his touch, it lit with blue flame. "THEN WHY SUMMON OTHERS TO FIGHT FOR YOU, DEMON?"
Uncaring, the demon didn’t dodge Justice’s swing, and judging from the shriek, it was a nasty surprise when the blue-lit sword sheared through its spikes.
Cormac raised a barrier around himself, Merrill, and Bethany. They couldn’t go anywhere, but nothing could get to them. "Hit the big one," he reassured them, unleashing lightning across the rising shades. He heard Bethany’s fan crack open behind him, and the demon staggered, glowing brightly for an instant.
Supporting herself with her staff, Bethany listened to her brother lay more and more lightning across the room. Merrill was making sounds of frustration, that finally culminated in a shout of, "Move!" as an enormous chunk of stone slammed down on the demon.
The templars darted back, Cullen laying another smite in his wake, and Anders — if that was still Anders — seemed wholly unperturbed, leaping back into the fray as the stone crumbled with the impact. A swipe of Justice’s crackling-blue sword cut off a chunk of the creature’s hip. The shriek that tore from the demon was loud, piercingly loud, and Carver cringed, clapping a hand over his ear even as he cut through the shade clawing its way out of the ground behind him.
Demons. They were surrounded by demons, but Cullen would panic later. He had no room to now, laying down yet another smite as the Pride demon crackled with green light. He didn’t know what that meant or what it was doing, but in his experience, a glowing demon was rarely a good sign. He turned to fight the shades at either side of him, but they sizzled out in a cloud of lightning and smoke. With a grateful nod at the mages, Cullen jumped back into the fray, aiming his swings for the exposed — and oozing — bits of not-flesh that Justice carved out.
"Insolence!" the demon roared, but even Merrill could hear the fear under the exclamation. It countered Justice’s next slash with a backhand, knocking spirit-and-mage into the wall.
"Anders?" Cormac called out, unthinkingly laying down a tempest across the demon and whatever it might think to raise, as he dropped the barrier long enough to get out and darted around the edge of the room.
The shields drowned out most of the electricity, but Carver still shoved Cullen back. "My brother does that sometimes," he muttered. "It’s not going to kill you."
Justice was on his feet again, before Cormac got to him, the damage righting itself even as he stood. Without so much as an acknowledgement, he charged into the tempest, unshielded, lightning glittering down the blade in his hands, skittering along the metal parts of the staff at his back. As he leapt at the demon, it turned as if to strike him again, leading with its shoulder — and then it staggered to the side, bellowing, a bright flash of blue licking around it like flames, there and then gone before Justice’s sword sunk in.
"Stab it, Carver!" Bethany shouted, clinging firmly to her staff. She could hit it harder than anyone, but the effort was exhausting.
Bethany didn’t need to tell him, but he appreciated the added encouragement. With a roar that started from his chest, Carver charged, putting all his weight behind his sword. Blade met demon-flesh, spilled demon-ichor, and the pride demon let out another anguished shriek. Cullen pulled Carver back just in time to evade the demon’s claws, and the creature shuddered, folding in on itself.
Bethany held her breath, another spell on her lips in case the creature got back up, but the only direction it went was down.