[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 371
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Janssen ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, demons, undead
Notes: A holiday at the Bone Pit. No dragons, this time. Mostly.
Morning found Anders and Cormac taking a long walk in the mountains. "Just have to check on the mines," Cormac had told his sister. "You know how things get, up there." After several reassurances that Cormac wouldn’t try to take on a dragon without sending for help, first, Bethany finally shooed the two of them out the door.
As they followed the path up to the mining camp, Anders glanced up, nervously. "I keep expecting dragons. Centuries-old feral dragons, expecting Tevinter masters bearing treats."
"Don’t worry, pretty thing. I think we scared them off. And if we didn’t, Janssen would’ve been at my door raving about it." Cormac bumped his head against Anders’s shoulder, affectionately. "He’s good at recognising the signs, by now."
"He’d have to be," Anders drawled, still looking a bit unsettled.
"Janssen!" Cormac called out, as they came up on the camp. "You here? I’m looking for something, and I think you’re the man who knows where to find it!"
Anders heard the mage before he saw him.
"Is that so, boss?" Janssen said, dusting off his hands. "Depends on what you’re looking for, I suppose." He tipped his head cordially. "Just please tell me you’re not looking for dragons."
"I think I speak for us both when I say we’ve seen enough dragons for a lifetime, thank you," Anders said with a nervous laugh.
"You speak for us all," Janssen agreed.
Anton would protest that, Anders was sure. "Drakestone. I’ve read you can find it in old dragon lairs, and, well." He shrugged, gesturing at the mine entrance.
"Ah, so not dragons, but some presents from our old dragon friends." Janssen scratched one scruffy cheek. "That’s not some fancy word for dragon poop, is it? I’d hate to be the guy poking around a dark tunnel, looking for poop."
Anders coughed into his fist. "No, no. It’s a yellow stone. Smells like bad eggs. Seen anything like it?"
"Oh, yeah, that stuff’s horrible." Janssen nodded. "I’d almost rather dragon poop. We mostly dig it out and dump it down the pit, so it stops stinking up the tunnels. I bet there’s a big old pile of it, down there."
"In the pit of bones. The actual Bone Pit of the Bone Pit." Cormac looked less than thrilled. "How much you want to bet me there are angry corpses in that pit?"
Anders sighed. "I promise you, it’s not Tuesday any more."
"Angry corpses?" Janssen looked confused. "You mean like those things that came out of the wall, up here, a couple years back? Those kind of angry corpses?"
"Exactly those kind of angry corpses. This pit was used for sacrifices, when it was a Tevinter holding. I can’t imagine anything down there is happy about it, except maybe some lucky and hopefully extremely dead dragons." Cormac shook his head and looked out toward the edge of the pit. "Oh, shit. Tell me there’s not going to be angry dragon corpses…"
"Should we be evacuating the mine just in case, messere?" Janssen asked, more tired than concerned.
"I doubt that will be necessary," Anders said. He laughed, only to stop abruptly. "At least I hope not."
"Maybe just a long lunch break then," Janssen said, shrugging one shoulder. "That way, at least we won’t be stuck in the tunnels should any undead creatures come shambling by. Even if they have wings." Janssen suddenly looked unsure. "They couldn’t fly with bone wings, could they? That would put a damper on things."
"I would assume not," Anders assured him, backing towards a path along the edge of the pit. He hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "This way?"
Janssen nodded. "Careful now. No one’s been that way in a while. If you see anything unfriendly, give us a shout, yeah?"
"If I see a dragon, I’m doing more than that. Go back to town and get my sister, if that happens, all right?" Cormac said, turning to follow Anders down into the pit.
Janssen nodded and called out to the crew. "Everyone out of the tunnels! Long lunch! Anyone want to go to Kirkwall for the afternoon? Feel free! Boss is down in the Tevinter stuff again!"
Cormac snorted as he caught up with Anders. "Dragons. Anton’s going to be so pissed. I mean, mostly dead dragons. Hopefully all dead dragons." He glanced over the edge of the curving path and shuddered, edging closer to the cliffside. "That is a very long drop. I know I’d survive, because I’ve done that before, but that is a very long drop."
Anders quirked an eyebrow at Cormac. "There’s a story there, isn’t there?" he asked. He stepped ahead of Cormac, sliding his arm along the cliff face. "I jumped from the library window in Kinloch Hold, once. But there was water on the other side. Water is a very welcome way to end a long fall."
"Ah, you know how it is. I have brothers." Cormac laughed. "Artie missed, I went flying. It’s a good thing I can cast a barrier while flying through the air. Excellent survival skill, though. You get thrown off a cliff, and people just assume you went all the way down. I still don’t like standing on what looks like nothing, though."
Anders tried to picture that, against his better judgement, and promptly felt his stomach twist. "That is not on my list of things I want to try," he said. He focused on putting one foot in front of the other, watching the path creep by in inches and trusted Cormac to keep anything too disastrous from happening. "That does, however, almost make me feel grateful for not having any siblings around."
They came around the last curve into the bottom of the pit, where a large pool of water was dotted with what looked like the remains of old quarrying equipment. Even as far back as the last deaths down here dated, there were still bones visible, jutting out of what Cormac had thought was part of the cliff wall, until he got a closer look. Vines and flowers covered little hills along the edge of the pit closest to the mine, and Cormac had the sense that those weren’t just dirt. Here, the air felt like it was pulling at his skin, whispering in his ear. Kirkwall was loud, Anders always said, but this was thick.
"So, what do we do, just sniff around on the mine side until we find something yellow and gross?" he asked, still glancing around, unsettled.
Anders slapped at the flickers of blue that crawled across his skin. "That was my brilliant plan, yes," he said. "At least we shouldn’t need to do any digging if the miners threw the stuff down here." Shielding his eyes against the sun, Anders peered up at the cliff, at where they had been standing earlier. He edged closer to that side of the cliff.
Justice was an inch under his skin, and Anders suspected they’d be pacing restlessly if the spirit had control of their shared limbs. The Fade was close but so was death, and the ground remembered. Even after so long, these bones cried out for justice, but their murderers were long gone.
Or perhaps they weren’t. The first thing to rise wasn’t some unarmed slave skeleton, not with that glow and those tattered robes.
"Balls," Cormac sighed, flicking a hand and then squeezing it tightly closed. "I guess the rebellion happened here, too."
The arcane horror slowly caved in on itself, as they looked around for more angry corpses. There wouldn’t be just the one. One was just the beginning, and with the veil as thin as they both knew it to be, this had the potential to get extremely ugly.
Cormac shuddered and passed the sack to Anders. "You know what you’re looking for. I know what I’m looking for. Get the stuff and I’ll keep them off of you." Still nothing, but it wasn’t quiet. Heaps of bone creaked and settled, and the long history of sacrifices — not all of them elves, to look at the bones — purred against his ears, as he picked his way across rounded, gleaming-yellowish shields, he thought, at first, that jutted from the ground. He realised, getting closer that they were the remnants of hatched dragon eggs, probably centuries old.
Anders set to work without question. They both knew what they were doing, and they both wanted out of here. Nudging a broken pickaxe out of the way, Anders caught a flash of something yellow. "Aha!" Crouching down, the stink was more obvious than the colour, and Anders held his breath as he scraped up the bits of drakestone, shovelling it into his sack.
A fist of bone caught in Anders’s coat, but Anders swatted it aside. "Get off. This is a new coat." Magic or not, time had made the bones brittle, and a well-aimed smack of Anders’s staff turned the fingers into dust.
A barrier rose up around Anders and a decent swath of ground around him, as Cormac eyed the shifting piles of bone, the creaking and grinding growing louder. "They know we’re here. We’re here, and we’re mages. Every demon’s dream." Cormac considered the surrounding area. "Just stay put. The barrier will keep you safe. I’m going to get a little unpleasant."
Raising a barrier around himself, as well, Cormac laid down a tempest, watching the bolts skip between tiny bits of metal — chains, most likely — in the piles of bone. Dirt poured off the hills around them, baring more bone, and the ground chittered as it tried and failed to rise again and again. The pit, apparently, was lined with bones, even more than Cormac had anticipated. The Tevinter records the ‘Band of Three’ had found were incomplete, and only for the city of Kirkwall. How many more slaves had been sacrificed up here?
"That is quite a lot of angry dead people," Anders joked weakly even as his stomach roiled. So much needless death, and they were helpless to do anything for them except make sure they stayed dead. "Maybe we should have brought Bethany. Angry dead people is her area of expertise."
Anders spotted more yellow outside of the barrier, and he waited for the tempest to die down and for Cormac to drop the spell. They couldn’t bring justice to the dead, but there was still the living to consider. For them, it wasn’t too late. Focusing on that thought settled Justice and the sick feeling in his stomach.
"I’m just going to freeze everything," Cormac said, softly, the spell coming easily to his fingers. "Even if they manage to get up, frozen, they’ll explode if you sneeze on them. Can we go? Do you need more?" He looked over his shoulder to see Anders point at another pile, and dropped the barrier. "Quickly, yes? I want to get out of here. I think they’ll settle, if we leave."
Something lunged from beside Cormac, something reassembling itself from inside the cliff wall. It slammed into the barrier and the bones crumbled away, leaving behind a rage demon, pinned between the barrier and the wall.
"Holy shit!" Cormac shrieked, ice even quicker to his fingers, this time, as he lashed out against it. "Andraste’s blazing gown of fiery burning holy shit!"
Anders looked up sharply from where he crouched over another drakestone deposit. "Shit, shit, holy shit," he agreed, if less creatively. He flailed for a moment, before tossing a spell at the demon, and the ground beneath it glowed green. Hopefully, that would buy Cormac enough time to kill the thing. If not, at least it had bought Anders enough time to scrape up the last of the drakestone.
"We can go now! Let’s go. I am in favour of going." Anders threw the sack over his shoulder and trotted to Cormac’s side, side-stepping bone and shards and what was, he suspected, actual dragon shit.
A few more waves of ice, and the rage demon went out in a puff of smoke. Cormac dropped the barrier and ran for the bottom of the now-snowy winding road back up to the top. "Just keep moving! Maker, Creators, whatever’s out there, do us a favour — I’d really like to get out of this alive…"