[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 373
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Orana ♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Merrill ♀, Serendipity ⚧, Anton Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Knob jokes, unexpected rune bases
Notes: Community reactions to an important announcement in the Kirkwall Gazette.
An excerpt from the Kirkwall Gazette:
MAGES LOOKING OUT FOR YOUR RIGHTS IN THE FACE OF TEMPLAR INCURSION
by His Nobs
The Knight-Commander has grown increasingly unstable, templars report. Templar patrols have increased in Lowtown, seeking not only mages, but their families and friends. This is well beyond the purview of the Order, as far as this correspondent is aware, and edges into territory usually handled by the City Guard. Guard Captain Aveline Hendyr reports that she, personally, has been involved in the arrest of several patrols caught harassing citizens with no magical talent.
"This cannot go on," Captain Aveline said. "The templars exist to handle magical threats to this city and all of Thedas, but when no magic is involved, where is the line? Chantry law provides no place for templars interfering in the lives of non-magical individuals, when no mages are present. This is an outrage and an insult to the law of Kirkwall and the memory of Viscount Dumar."
The Seneschal agreed wholeheartedly with the Guard Captain’s sentiments.
But, what are we, the citizens of Kirkwall, to do in the face of this potent outrage? Thankfully, the mage community of Kirkwall has made a suggestion, and the city’s smiths and stonecarvers have been quick to respond. We at the Gazette advise going to your local smith or stonecarver and asking for a ‘roof rune’ kit, to shield the upper stories of your residence against potential ballista fire or magical assault. As these are what the Qunari used in their most successful assault on the city, it is important to protect against others who might seek to use the same or similar tactics, now.
Public houses and brothels are being reinforced with donations from the community, so if a war starts and you haven’t been able to shield your home, make for your favourite drinking establishment. Remember, people, the Kirkwall Gazette is looking out for you!
Artemis woke in the library with Orana’s hand on his shoulder and a book on his face. "Mrph?" he asked the pages before the book slid into his lap. "Ah. Good morning, Orana."
"Not quite morning any more, messere," Orana replied with a small smile.
Orana shook her head.
"Afternoon? Good afternoon, then." Artie sat up and stretched, rubbing at stiff neck muscles. "How can I help you? Can I help you?"
"Your brother is here, messere. Your older brother. Shall I let him in, or would you like to go back to your, ah, reading?"
"I was enjoying my reading," Artemis muttered, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "But sure, let the bastard in. He’s probably already outside the door anyway."
"Don’t say such things about our sainted mother," Cormac teased, stepping in from where he’d been leaning next to the library door. He tried to smile, but it was obviously one of those smiles — the kind he put on for everyone else. "You seen the Gazette, yet? It’s kind of important, and I wanted to make sure I put some things in your hand, personally. I’m worried about you. I’m worried about this whole fucking city."
Artemis knew that smile. He set down his book. "Thank you, Orana. Would you mind excusing us?"
Orana ducked her head and slipped out of the room, silent as a shadow.
"What’s this about?" Artemis asked, even as his brain went through all the things that might have gone wrong since the last time he’d seen Cormac. "No, I haven’t seen the Gazette. Is everyone all right?"
"So far? Yeah, we’re all fine." Cormac sat down on the arm of the next chair over, facing his brother. He took a clacking bag from one of his pouches and pressed it into Artemis’s hands. "These are barrier runes. They’re Sandal’s work, so I know they’re the best in town. Knowing Sandal, probably the best in Thedas. They go every twenty feet, on the roof. I know this place is mostly stone, outside, but I also know the roof isn’t, and I don’t want it burning through, if — No, I started in the wrong place. Meredith. The Knight-Commander has become a serious threat to the City of Kirkwall, and I want to make sure that if there’s war, your house is one of the safe zones. If the city burns down around our ears, I want to know that you’re going to be all right, and you’ll have something to come home to, that’s not a smouldering pile of wreckage, if someone starts throwing flaming pitch."
Artemis opened the pouch and peered inside, his expression inscrutable for a long moment. "You seem incredibly earnest for a ‘maybe’," he said, brows knitting in concern as he peered up at his brother. "Cormac, is something going on that I should know about?"
"She’s called for an Annulment," Cormac said, first. That, alone, would be enough to excuse this. "Spent some time with Cullen, the other day, and … it’s not looking good. He and Anders agree we’ve reached the point where outright war is inevitable, and I want you to be safe. Even the Gazette is running stories on it, and I’m not the one writing them. It doesn’t look like Anders, either. I know what his work reads like. I’m afraid of what’s coming, and I want to make sure you have a chance if I’m not by your side, when it comes."
Artemis swallowed and nodded, counting the runes in the bag. "Another war, huh? Exactly what the city needs." He shook his head, but if Cormac was worried… "Very well. I will put them up. Is there anything else I can—? Hold on, is this Gytha’s work? Is that…? Cormac, I am not putting a dildo on my roof."
"Oh, uh, no, that’s… not related. Sorry. That’s just for you." Cormac laughed. "The runes are under it. It’s… well… I thought you might recognise it. An early nameday present from your dearest older brother. That one’s equipped with a heat rune."
"So not for the roof, then?" Artie teased, a smirk pulling at the corner of his lips. "And here I thought I already had one of you — oh! This one isn’t you. This… You brought Theron to Gytha’s shop?" Artemis tried not to laugh at that image. "I do hope he didn’t buy out the shop."
"Oh, you should have heard him. ‘The knob of Hahren Theron will be passed down through the generations! The Shem Tamer will be eternal!’ You know how he gets." Cormac laughed, again, eyes crinkling almost shut. "And then he met the Pillar of Passion, and I thought he was going to faint. That or write a treatise on weird shemlen sexual customs. You should’ve seen his face when I told him it was based on Anders. But, no, he didn’t buy out the shop. Just bought a handful of his own, and then juggled them, when he went to pick them up. I’d forgotten he could juggle."
A cringing laugh escaped Artie. "That… I can picture that. I’m not sure I want to, but I can." He waved the dildo. "‘The Shem Tamer’? I’ll have to see how it compares to Fenris’s." His teasing grin turned wicked, but the kiss he stretched up to give Cormac was soft. "Is there anything else I can do? How worried are we?" He eyed the other pouches and wondered how many homes his brother planned to visit.
"It’s going to happen. And there’s not enough runes to shield the whole city, but Sandal and Gytha are working as hard as they can. The Merchant’s Guild has called for more lyrium, but I don’t know if it’s going to get here in time. The Gazette’s telling people to hole up in bars, when the revolution comes, which tells me someone’s paid to have those covered. Always public places, first, because they hold more people." Cormac reached out and took his brother’s hand. "Cullen’s doing his best, but unless Meredith riots in the streets, there’s a strong chance he may not be her replacement, if she’s removed by … conventional means. She needs to make a public spectacle of herself, before Cullen’s continued clashes with her work to his advantage. And I have no doubt she will, and that it will be frightening. I just want to make sure it’s not all that damaging. This city’s been through enough. That? That’s how worried we are."
He kissed Artemis slowly and thoroughly. "Anton, Varric, and I have Hightown. Carver and Merrill are handling Lowtown, and Isabela’s taking care of a couple places down by the docks. If you want to help, either help in Lowtown or figure out what Anders needs in the clinic. He’s trying to get ready for the people who don’t make it to safety."
Artemis nodded, his hand lingering in Cormac’s hair, twisting it around his fingers before pulling away. "I’ll go see what Anders needs," he said. "And, Cormac? Promise you won’t go running into anything stupid without me."
"I… I’ll do my best. But, if stupid’s between me and you, I’m gonna have to send a runner."
Eyes flicked over the little point-ear as she fluttered over to the bar, trailing a large human escort carrying a large bag. They were regulars. No one thought much of it. Some people even knew their names.
"Corff! Corff! Have you seen the Gazette?" Merrill climbed up on a stool. The bar was a little tall in this place.
"I’ve always seen the Gazette, Daisy-girl. What’s so exciting that you had to run over and tell me?" The bartender asked, pouring two pints of slightly better than usual beer for Merrill and her boyfriend.
"We’ve got your runes! They’ll protect this whole place. If you want, we can even help you put them up." Merrill smiled proudly. "I bet you could fit a lot of people in here."
"Runes, huh?" Corff raised a pair of bushy eyebrows and whistled under his breath. "Those ain’t cheap, Daisy-girl. But let’s see ’em, then."
"Carver!" Merrill called over her shoulder, unnecessarily, as he was right behind her.
"Yes, yes," he grumbled, and with a grunt of effort, he hoisted the bag onto the bar. Merrill loomed proudly over it as Corff reached inside.
He paused, brows knit, as his hand curled around stone. "Doesn’t feel like any other rune I’ve ever—" He pulled it out and stared down at what was in his hand. "That… that’s not a rune."
"Yes, it is!" said Merrill cheerfully.
"Daisy-girl," Corff said, eyes pitying and yet still disconcerted. He shoved the object back into the bag when Edwina threw him a curious look. "I’m afraid someone has misled you. This isn’t a rune. This is a stone knob. You do know what a knob looks like, don’t you?"
"Of course she does!" Carver replied, sharply. "She is very familiar with the appearance of knobs! Knob! One knob!"
Merrill hushed him and patted his head. "And it’s a lovely knob," she assured him. "But the stone knob is a barrier rune. It’s a safety knob!"
"I don’t…" Corff started, and Merrill stuck her hand in the bag and pulled one out.
"Look it’s on the other side. You were looking at it wrong." She spun the dildo around so the rune faced Corff. "Once they’re activated, upstairs will be safe from dragons and fireballs. You have to watch out for the dragons. I think there’s still some up in the mountains."
"Wait, wait, does this mean I just walked across town carrying a big bag of dicks?" Carver protested, suddenly.
"And I thought that’s how you usually came in here, Junior Hawke," Corff teased, examining the dildo uncomfortably.
"Now, now, that’s is a bag, not carrying a bag," Edwina corrected, leaning over the bar to put down a tray of empties. "Another three of Ragbottom and two shots of house whiskey for the guys by the fire."
Carver sputtered, cheeks reddening, as Corff filled the glasses.
"Oh, Gytha said to tell you that’s why they’re free. Because they’re made from damaged stock, instead of from fresh stone. Also, that it’ll make a lovely decoration near the corners," Merrill explained, sipping her beer.
"A… decoration?" Corff repeated. "You don’t think it sends the wrong message about the place?"
"Well, it’s in keeping with the title, isn’t it?" Merrill asked, looking to Carver for confirmation. "If a man is hanged, he is… you know?" She trailed off meaningfully as Carver wiped a hand over his face.
"You’re thinking of hung, Merrill. Not hanged. A hanged man is either drunk or dead."
"Oh. Oh!" Merrill peered around her as though seeing the place properly for the first time. "You know, that makes quite a bit more sense. Oops?"
"Don’t mind her," Carver sighed. "She’s Dalish."
"He’s not joking, Lusine," Serendipity said, hoisting herself up on the bar as punctuation. "He’s married to the Knight-Captain. If he says the Commander’s starting a war, I’d take his word for it. And really, what’s he asking to do? Add protective runes to the upper floors. For free, which is more than you deserve, the way you’ve treated him and his family."
"I run a business, not a dating service," Lusine grumbled, reaching into the bag and pulling out a large stone phallus with a bright blue rune. "Looks like the right rune, at least. Not that I see many of that kind in here. Kind of the opposite of the sort of thing you want in this sort of establishment. What’s the catch?" She eyed Anton suspiciously.
"If the war does start — when the war starts — you take in refugees. You protect the people who couldn’t save their own homes, until the fighting stops. That’s it. And you can still charge them for drinks and the usual services, but I’d greatly appreciate it if you didn’t charge them for food. Shit, charge double for drinks and the usual services, if you like, as long as food and shelter are free for the duration." Anton leaned on the bar and grinned. "You’d be a hero, you know. Lots of people would come by after to pay their respects and have a few drinks."
"If I’d wanted to be a hero, I would have a different job," Lusine drawled. She had little use for gratitude. But coin… "Very well, Champion. As long as I’m not paying for it, I don’t see the harm. Might give Sabina’s brat something useful to do, for a change. Hey, boy!" She shouted, and the boy jumped, his hand halfway in the purse of one of Lusine’s drunker patrons. He yanked his hand away and scurried over, and Lusine handed him the bag with some instructions and a threat to whip him if he placed them wrong. The boy scampered off again, tail between his legs.
Serendipity exchanged a dry look with Anton. "I’ll make sure the poor fool doesn’t trip on them," she said, slipping down off of the counter.
Lusine turned her fakest smile Anton’s way. "Well, now that that’s taken care of… Do you plan to at least have a drink or are you going to just stand there, looking pretty?"
"I don’t see why I can’t do both." With a wink at Lusine, Anton waved down the bartender and made himself at home.