[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 368
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Merrill ♀, Bethany Hawke ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Talk of revolution, uncomfortable flirting
Notes: Red lyrium, revolutionaries, and Cullen getting a little closer to Anders than he ever particularly meant to.
"I shouldn’t be telling you this. Any of you. But, I think by now — after that, after everything that’s come before it — I can trust this family as much as I’m going to trust anyone in this Maker-forsaken city. She’s called for an Annulment. The Grand Cleric hasn’t responded yet, but she’s called for it. I don’t want to believe it’s going to happen — Elthina hasn’t been much of a force for change, but that’s just it. I can’t see her approving anything so dramatic."
"Shit." Anders shook his head and took a deep breath. "Has she been spending extra time with her sword, lately? Whispering to its broad red blade?"
"What—?" Cullen looked over his shoulder again.
"Oh. That’s right." Anders took another deep breath and blew it out slowly. "You don’t know, do you?"
"Know what?" Cullen asked, voice turning sharp. Broad red blade? She did have a sword with a red blade, but what did that have to do with anything?
Blue light flickered through Anders’s eyes, only to be gone just as quickly. "Her sword. It’s made of lyrium — you told me that. But, it’s the red kind. The kind I don’t want to lick."
"Red?" Cullen asked, brows knitting. "Doesn’t it usually come in the one colour?" But even as he spoke, he wondered. That sword… it had a feel to it that most weapons didn’t, even across the room. Or perhaps less of a feel and more of a sound, a dissonant chord out of earshot but still close enough to feel in his chest.
"Generally," Anders agreed. "Usually. Except, apparently, when it’s red and in a primeval dwarven thaig."
"Oh, shit," Carver breathed. "You’re shitting me, right?"
"Ah, how exactly did this not come up?" Cormac asked, finally shaken out of his funk by the mention of red lyrium.
Anders shook his head. "I don’t know. I thought I’d said something. Varric and Isabela were there. And Fenris, but he was so drunk I’m not sure he’d remember if I slapped him. Which I didn’t, for the record, but he took a crack at me later. I guess I just got distracted by Fenris." He shrugged. "But, yeah, Bartrand said he sold the idol to somebody. Justice… hears lyrium. So, I hear it, too. And the last piece of the idol sounds exactly like Meredith’s office." Pinching the bridge of his nose, he closed his eyes for a moment. "I hear everything. This city doesn’t shut up."
Cormac rubbed circles just above Anders’s belt, unsure if it would do any good through the armour, but content to at least make the effort. "Her sword’s made of the idol, then." He looked back at Cullen. "We knew a dwarf — Varric’s brother, actually — who touched it once, and the instant it met his hands, it drove him mad."
"He tried to seal us in the Deep Roads," Bethany explained. "I understand Varric’s finally found a use for what was once Bartrand’s house. Bartrand, though…"
"Bartrand’s no longer with us. He’s not dead, but he’s … He sees things that aren’t there. Talks to things even I can’t hear. All he wants is the idol back." Anders shifted uncomfortably. "I tried, you know. But, I couldn’t help him. Whatever’s wrong, it’s not something I can change."
Cullen closed his eyes, took a deep breath to keep from being sick. Meredith had always been paranoid, always been harsh, but even Cullen knew it had been getting out of hand. "So you’re saying you think this… sword has driven her mad?"
"It would explain the request for the Annulment," Carver said cautiously. Family or not, this was still his boss he was talking about. "The Gallows has issues, but Annulment? That’s drastic."
"And so was locking you up," Bethany reminded Cullen.
Cullen wiped a hand over his face. "And taking the sword from her… that wouldn’t help? It’s too late?"
"I think it was too late when she became a templar," Anders muttered. "But I can’t fix any damage the idol has done, no."
"I need air," Cullen said, shaking his head.
"You need whiskey," Cormac replied, finally letting go of Anders. "We’ll go up the easy way, grab a bottle on the way. Assuming you’re willing to spend about ten minutes blindfolded, Cullen? I can’t betray the trust certain people have in me, but I can get you out of here a lot faster."
Carver blinked in confusion for a moment, and then, "Oh! You’re going to—?"
"Yeah." Cormac nodded.
"It’s a good idea, Captain. No magic, just a secret door," Carver assured him. "I’ve been through there."
Still, Cullen looked to Bethany for reassurance. Bethany had looked out for him since he’d met this crazy family.
"My brother will take care of you. We’ll have you back up to Anton in no time." Bethany smiled. "When it’s time, I’ll cover your eyes, and Anders will carry you. There’s a lot of stairs."
"Oh, sure, just volunteer the mountain savage to haul around a templar in full plate," Anders scoffed, and then caught himself. "She’s right. I’ll carry you. We don’t want you bumping into anything in there." Or tripping on a cat.
Cullen couldn’t decide if he was more curious or concerned by all the secrecy. He trusted these people, he swore he did, but.
Doubts aside, before long, he found himself blindfolded, carried bridal style by a Mage Warden. And how on earth Anders could carry him, Cullen had no idea. "Anton never holds me like this," he said just to cut the nervous tension. Anders’s polite chuckle was a bit too close for Cullen’s comfort, but at least Cullen preferred the lemony scent that clung to Anders to the deathly and demonic reminders in the room behind them.
"Anton might hurt his back if he tried," Anders replied. "I might hurt my back if I weren’t a healer."
"I think he just implied you were fat, Captain," Carver said from up ahead.
"Never!" Anders said, mock horrified. "But, perhaps, if the Captain ate more chorizo…"
Cullen blushed, the red spilling down his neck, as he squirmed, nearly missing the sound of another door opening. Was that the first or the second? But, this was definitely the smell of Darktown, and not the smell of demons.
"Go on ahead," Cormac suggested. "I’ll catch up. I just need to take care of this door. I don’t want every curious ragpicker in Darktown ransacking the place before we can get back in and inventory it. The history in that room…" He sounded awed as he fished a handful of wrapped runes out of a pouch. "It’ll just take a minute. I’ve got a wall kit."
"Don’t worry!" Bethany chimed in, cheerfully. "We’ll get out just fine without you. Don’t get savaged by the Coterie, while you’re down here, brother dear!"
Cormac sighed. "Thanks. Really."
"Savaged by the Coterie?" Cullen asked, after a moment. "Is that likely?"
"Not really." Carver shook his head, even though Cullen couldn’t see him. "If it was Anton, you might have something to worry about."
"I don’t know," Anders said, "Anton handles himself rather well, down here. And I’m sure the Coterie have much less interest in starting trouble with him, after the last time."
"The last time?" Cullen asked. "Do I want to know?"
"Probably not. He and Aveline had a strong word with some people. A strong word that might have ended in a few dead bodies." Anders shrugged and Cullen shifted in his arms.
"This city…" Cullen sighed.
"Cullen?" Anders paused, waiting for the acknowledgement. "What would you do for this city, if you were Knight-Commander?"
"Oh, yes, ask strong political questions of the blindfolded man in your arms," Cullen scoffed.
"No, I mean it. And I’m not going to drop you if I don’t like your answer. Although I might drop you if I trip on the stairs." Anders felt around in front of himself with one foot, looking for the broken step he knew was there.
And Cullen supposed that was something he needed to think about, if Meredith continued going down this path. He had thought about it, abstractly, being Knight-Captain and all. But those daydreams had never held this kind of urgency before. "I would have my work cut out for me, that’s for sure," Cullen muttered. "But this city… its biggest enemy is fear, fear of suffering another war so soon. Meredith fears mages and what they’re capable of. Mages fear the templars and what they’re capable of. It’s a mess. No, it’s more than a mess, it’s an explosion waiting to happen. Mages are supposed to be our charges, not our enemies. We shouldn’t fear each other, and that? That is what I’d like to try to remind the Order. No Tranquility as punishment, no more men like Alrik abusing their station."
Which sounded all well and good, he knew. But he would need to fire quite a few people, upset quite a few others. What if he accidentally made it worse? What if he couldn’t even do half of what he wanted to?
But Anders hadn’t dropped him on the stairs yet, so Cullen hoped he’d said the right thing.
"They’re right to fear another war. It’s coming, one way or another. But, I trust you. I’ve seen your work." Anders paused, a distant look on his face as he tapped at the stairs with his foot again. "And I know where I didn’t see you, all those years ago. I believe you know enough to make a difference, and I know you’re willing to try. You’ll be Knight-Commander, Cullen, and I’ll help you get there. We’ll make a difference, you and I. We’ll do something that matters. And one day, men like you and men like me, we’ll stand up and face the Blight, together, like it was supposed to be, and the only fear will be of the darkspawn."
"Holy shit, Anders," Carver breathed.
"Surprised?" Anders laughed. "So am I. But, if I wanted to kill all the templars, I’d never have put your intestines back in. I’m a revolutionary, not a mass-murderer. I just needed another revolutionary on the other side of the wall."
"Revolutionary?" Cullen asked, brows knitting under the blindfold. "I’m not sure, I’d…" He trailed off. That’s exactly what he’d just sounded like, wasn’t it? And yet that was not a label he’d ever thought to have.
"What, Captain?" Anders asked, polite but almost coldly so. Cullen could almost see the grim smile behind those words.
"Never mind," Cullen said. A shift in Anders’s stride told him they’re weren’t on the stairs any more. "…Did I just hear a meow?"
"Carver does that sometimes," Bethany replied.
The room seemed moderately warm, a little warmer than the rest of Darktown, if only because of the lack of sea breeze blowing in from the cliff-side, and it was filled with a heavy herbal scent and an underlying smell of books and cats.
"This is someone’s house, isn’t it?" Cullen suddenly asked. "That’s why you’ve covered my eyes. We’re walking through someone’s house."
"Well, it’s not usually polite to wander through someone’s living room uninvited," Merrill pointed out. "But, extreme circumstances… You’re looking a little green, Captain."
And then another door closed behind them, between more stairs and more stairs. Stairs and doors and the shifting scents of the surrounding rooms filled Cullen’s awareness, as he tried to place where he was. Another door, and the air was humid again. Another, and he thought they might be outside.
"Just a minute more," Anders assured him, spinning around every few steps, before finally setting Cullen on his feet. "We’re here."
Pulling off the blindfold, Cullen took in the front of the Amell estate, just before Cormac opened the door with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. "I thought you were behind us!"
"I was. I also wasn’t carrying a templar in full plate. Did you want that drink?" Cormac grinned and held the door open, a cat perched on his shoulder, chewing on his hair.
"It’s not so much ‘want’ as ‘need’ at this stage," Cullen admitted. Mintaka ran out to meet him, wagging his stump of a tail hard enough to make the rest of his body wriggle. "Drink and a dog," Cullen decided, bending to rub Mintaka’s back and getting a face full of dog slobber for his trouble.