[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 375
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S1 V0 D1)
Warnings: Alternate uses for cream cakes, ‘dragon bone’ jokes
Notes: Cullen is displeased with the latest Gazette headline. Anton, regrettably, admits to finding no further insight into the Bone Pit.
Anton was well on his way to swindling the next set of snooty Orlesians when his husband burst into the bar, his face red and his hand clutching what Anton could only guess was a copy of a particularly infamous broadsheet of their acquaintance. Anton was impressed. He didn’t think Cullen even knew this place existed, let alone that he would be here.
"Ser Cullen!" Anton greeted him cheerfully, and Cullen finally spotted him at the corner table. "Grab a drink and a chair. I’ll deal you in." He shuffled as he spoke while the Orlesians whispered to each other behind their drinks.
"Have you seen this?" he hissed. "…Lord Dog?’
Anton tilted his head as though trying to read the Gazette’s cover. "I see an ill-used broadsheet in your fist," he said with an insouciant shrug. "Is there a particular reason why it is being ill-used or was it in the wrong place at the wrong time?" Anton dealt a place for Cullen, and he caught the bartender’s eye long enough to gesture for a round of drinks.
"Was this one of your brothers? Was this Anders?" Cullen demanded, quietly, sliding into the chair and pressing the Gazette into Anton’s lap, trying to hide the cover story from the rest of the room.
"Page Six, again?" Anton asked, not picking up his cards until he’d gotten a look at the problem. And, oh, now he could see why Cullen was upset. "You know how the Gazette works, Cullen. No one knows who writes this shit." He pushed his chair back and read the article under that headline. "I can tell you it doesn’t look like Anders, though. I’ve seen his work enough times. He leaves half-written things all over the house. This is not his style."
Cullen nodded, looking a little less upset. "I told him something in confidence, and here…"
"Ah, a matter of trust, rather than general outrage." Anton nodded. "But, is it true? Has it gotten this bad? Partially because if it has, you’re probably not the only one who knows."
Cullen eyed the Orlesians, but they were too busy pretending not to listen. "That’s… probably not something I should discuss in public," he said delicately.
"That wasn’t a ‘no’," Anton said, "and that is just as damning. Are you angry, Ser Templar, that the people of Kirkwall are taking precautions?"
And Cullen supposed that’s all they were: precautions. Not a call to arms. But he doubted Meredith would see it that way. "Not… as such, no," he admitted. "The runes are not a bad idea, and Maker knows the city could have used them against the Qunari. I understand the why, but I fear how Meredith will respond when she sees this." He and his fellow templars were working diligently to keep this issue out of her hands, but he still knew it was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’.
Anton arranged his cards in a way, Cullen had learned, that only made sense to him. "Are you expecting a violent reaction?" For a moment, he looked genuinely concerned.
Cullen wished he could say ‘no’, but he honestly didn’t know.
"I believe, sad to say, that my husband and I must excuse ourselves, before this hand begins. The affairs of the city call." Anton smiled like a Carta boss considering the fortunes of Orzammar and rose quietly, folding the Gazette under his arm. "Let us adjourn to my office, husband. The chairs are much more comfortable than they are in your office."
Cullen stood, just as his drink arrived, and he hesitated, uncertain of the etiquette.
Anton, of course, retrieved both their drinks, with a smile. "Arieh, would you be so kind as to find another player for this table?" He smiled far more politely at the man serving the drinks than he had at the Orlesians. "Our guests shouldn’t miss out on the rest of the evening, simply because business calls."
"Business." Arieh looked slyly at Anton. "Of course, messere."
"It… actually is business," Cullen felt the need to assure him, speaking over his shoulder as he followed Anton. "For once."
"‘For once’?" Anton repeated, balancing their drinks in one hand as he opened the door. He held it open with his foot and gestured Cullen in ahead of him. "You say that like it doesn’t usually at least start out business!"
"It doesn’t," Cullen said with a flat look, taking his drink.
Anton shrugged. "Well, however our ‘meetings’ start, they always end happily." Grinning, he took a moment to enjoy Cullen’s full-body sigh before returning to the topic at hand. "Have a seat. Take a drink. Tell me what’s going on."
"It’s not just Meredith. Well, no. It is Meredith, but…" Cullen dropped into a chair with a bit of a clatter and finished his drink in one long swallow, before setting the glass on the edge of Anton’s desk. It still struck him as strange that Anton even had a desk. "Do you happen to have any of that Orlesian honey wine?" he asked, still trying to arrange the pieces in his head. "If not, I’m buying a bottle on the way home."
Anton leaned out the door and gestured toward the bar. After a few more motions of his hand, he nodded and stepped back in, pulling the door shut behind him. "It’ll be here in a bit."
"Red lyrium," Cullen said, looking up at his husband.
"Oh, shit." Anton looked pale.
"That’s exactly what Carver said, too." Cullen rubbed his face. "Anders figured it out. Something about an idol made of it that got sold?"
"Bartrand’s expedition. It’s how my family bought back our home — with the proceeds from the salvage. We never saw Bartrand or the idol again. Well, no, we saw Bartrand once more, but the last sane thing he said before we couldn’t get him back was that he’d sold the idol to some noble." Anton sat on the edge of his desk, sipping his drink, curiously.
"The idol’s been turned into a sword. At least we think so. If it wasn’t the idol, then there’s a lot more red lyrium than I really want to think about." Cullen ran his hand through his hair, nervously. "It’s Meredith’s sword. She always said there was lyrium worked into the blade, but I’d never seen it in red. I’ve only ever seen lyrium in blue."
"There’s a lot more red lyrium than you want to think about," Anton sighed. "It’s all over, down there. First it’s blue, and then you get further in, and it starts turning colour. It’s not good, but I think you’re right that it’s the idol. Given how fast Bartrand turned, I doubt the dwarves are mining it."
"Anders told me about Bartrand, you know," Cullen went on. "About how the idol drove him mad, made him lock his own brother in the Deep Roads."
"In fairness, Bartrand was a bit of a dick even before he was insane," Anton replied. "I’m not sure how much the ‘locking up’ part is the idol’s fault. In fact, at the time I suspected he was just trying to get rid of my brothers so he could have a good night’s sleep." He chuckled at a memory he wished he didn’t have and took a sip of his drink. "But, once he was back in Kirkwall? That was the idol. Poisoned his mind and made him slaughter his household staff. Freaky stuff, really."
There was a knock on the door, and Cullen beat Anton to it, thanking Arieh for the bottle pressed into his hand. "And now Meredith," he said as he fought the bottle open.
"And now Meredith," Anton agreed. "Which is why, if you think something’s about to go wrong, you need to tell me. If she snaps like Bartrand did, no one in the Gallows — no one in Kirkwall — is safe."
"So, really, it’s best the Gazette has issued a warning," Cullen finally conceded. "I just wish it wasn’t the headline." After a few sips of wine, he looked at Anton again, as he sat down. "Tell me what you’ve done, today, yesterday, this week. I haven’t seen you in days, and you must be dealing with less … threatening crazy."
"I don’t think there really is a threatening crazy that compares to your boss, right now," Anton pointed out as he leaned back over his desk and slid open one of the drawers. "It’s been the usual. Cards with the Orlesians. Lord Dog posturing at the Rose." He sat up holding a pastry box. "I picked these up on the way down, so I could bring them home later."
Cullen took the box and set it on the arm of the chair to open it. "Lemon cream duchess cakes?"
"I missed you, too." Anton grinned and nudged his husband’s knee with one foot. "Oh, I went digging through the archives in the Keep, yesterday. My brother’s got some concerns about weird Tevinter shit up at the Bone Pit. I guess there was something about undead dragons trying to eat him, the last time he went up there."
"I thought we ate it and burned the bones!" Cullen looked a little ill, a tiny smear of lemon cream clinging to his lip.
"Not that dragon. Older dragon. Something about Tevinter sacrifices to feed the dragons in the pit. He was looking for anything that would explain what had been going on up there, during the occupation." Anton leaned over, kissed Cullen, and swiped a cake. "Unfortunately, there’s nothing. If there’s something, it’s minimal. A mention in something else, maybe, but no real records from the mine. Nothing I could find in the half a day I spent going through books and boxes, that’s for sure."
Cullen looked no less ill, but he shoved the rest of the duchess cake into his mouth to keep from verbally flailing at that answer. Older dragons. Tevinter sacrifices. Of all places to end up after Kinloch Hold, he came to Kirkwall, the blood-magic capital of Thedas. At least Kirkwall also had Anton, by happy accident. "So we’ll never know what was going on in the Bone Pit?" he asked.
"Not without more digging, possibly literally," Anton said, shrugging one shoulder. He plucked up another duchess cake and inspected it from all sides before popping it into his mouth. "Though I’m not sure the quest for potential answers is worth death by bone dragon."
"Few things are," Cullen drawled. "Though I’m thinking maybe… maybe the ‘Champion’ oughtn’t use the phrase ‘bone dragon’ after that Page Six."
"Now, now, Ser Cullen. You know you’re the only dragon whose bone I want."
"Do I know that?" Cullen sighed. "Just please tell me the thing is dead."
Anton see-sawed his hand in the air. "Dead-ish. As dead as it was. So long as no one pokes at it again, however, Anders seems to think that it will stay horizontal and dead-ish, which is the important part, really." Anton watched his husband peek into the box again and smiled. "I’m trying to decide if I should tell you."
"Tell me what?" Cullen asked, looking askance at Anton. "What did you do? Is there something in these cakes?" Cullen looked considerably more alarmed. "Did you adopt the bone dragon?"
"No and no," Anton laughed. "But you’ve had lemon cream on your face for the past five minutes, and I’ve been debating whether I should tell you or just lick it off."
"That, ah, I mean—" Cullen started patting at his face, trying to find the bit of cream and wipe it away. "Er, this… this is your office. It’s, uh… businessy. That is, I mean, a business environment. I’m sure licking wouldn’t be appropriate."
"That is very true, ser, but it is my office, in my business, and you are my husband. I’m sure exceptions could be made." Anton smiled wickedly and dipped a finger into another cake so he could swipe a bit of cream onto Cullen’s nose.
Cullen squinted at Anton, for a long moment, sitting ever so still. "Does that door lock?" he asked finally. "I’m not letting your tongue anywhere near me until we have a locked door. Your brother was bad enough. I don’t need the Orlesians wandering in on any … licking."
Anton slid off the desk and snapped the bolt. "We can leave the Orlesians to wonder," he decided, leaning over to lick the lemon cream off Cullen’s nose and the other bit that was still smeared on his cheek.