[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 380
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂, Meredith Stannard ♀, Orsino ♂
Rating: M (L2 N0 S0 V3 D0)
Warnings: The fine art of blowing shit up, canon-typical violence
Notes: Meredith strikes. Anders is done fucking around.
Meredith’s voice was unmistakable, sharp and metallic and judgemental even from a distance, and the Gallows’ marketplace rang with it. But as Artie and Cormac rounded the corner, Fenris and Anders at their sides, Orsino was the one snarling.
"You cannot do that!" he said, grip tight on his staff as he jabbed a finger in Meredith’s direction. "You have no right!"
"Looks like the party’s started without us," Artemis said with an uneasy smile at Cormac, noting the crowd of templars and mages that had gathered. It was, however, more fit to say two crowds, when he thought about it, the way the templars and the mages stood apart.
"I have every right!" Meredith boomed, stepping into Orsino’s space. "You are harbouring blood mages, and I intend to root them out before they infest this city!"
"Blood magic? Where do you see blood mages?" Orsino demanded, glaring at Meredith. "My people cannot sneeze without you accusing us of corruption!"
"Do not trifle with me, mage. My patience is at an end!" Meredith shot back, eyes narrowed, as she leaned even closer.
"A wonder that I never saw it begin," Orsino drawled, eyebrow arching.
"The way you two carry on, people will talk!" Cormac teased, stepping out from behind Anders with his chin up and a smug smile on his face. All he had to do was annoy Meredith until she either attacked him — or preferably Fenris, since Fenris wasn’t even a mage. Well. Mostly. Actually, that was a terrible idea, since technically everyone they’d arrived with was a mage. Where was Carver, when you needed him? — or Anton showed up. And then she could go after Anton. That was actually a good idea.
"Oh, the Hawkes have found us." Meredith rolled her eyes and took a few steps toward the group. "I hope you’re here to support your brother-in-law’s interests."
"The Hawkes aren’t going to help you." Orsino’s face twisted at the absurdity of the statement. "The people deserve to know what you’ve done."
"So, you admit it! You have been writing for the Gazette!" Meredith roared, turning back to Orsino, before she composed herself. "What I’ve done is protect the people of this city, time and again. What I have done is protect you mages from your curse and your own stupidity. And I will not stop doing it! I will not lower our guard. I dare not!"
Fenris eyed Anders, waiting for an outburst from him, but the mage was silent, unusually tense but silent. The kind of tense that had Fenris wondering if Meredith would burst into flames at any moment.
"Is there any truth to what she’s saying?" Fenris asked Orsino.
Orsino scoffed. "These are only her latest accusations, nothing more! And for the last time, Meredith, the Gazette was not my doing! This is the same publication that dubbed this the ‘Staff of Violation’, for Maker’s sake!" Orsino shook his staff in the air, and Meredith’s cheeks coloured a blotchy red to match her cowl. "Just how far are you willing to go for your madness, Meredith?"
Meredith turned her shoulder to Orsino and eyed the pair of Hawkes in front of her. "Your brother knows better than anyone how deep the Circle’s corruption goes," she said. "If I must cut off a rotting limb to save the whole, then so be it."
"Rotting?" Artie repeated, nails digging into his palms. He was standing in the Gallows, surrounded by templars and drawing the wrath of the Knight-Commander herself. This was, in some ways, his worst nightmare, or at least among the top few, but with his brother, his husband, and his friend were beside him. The rest did not matter. "Does the word ‘crazy’ mean anything to you?"
"What other options do we have?" Meredith asked, her exasperation clear. "Tell me you have not seen with your own eyes what they can do, heard the lies of mages that seek power. Even your own brother! He makes no move to protect you from himself. Just like your father. Hasn’t your family suffered enough for this curse? Cast it off. It is our duty, the duty of the templar order, to protect you from this evil. And we will protect all of Thedas. I will protect this city!"
Artemis tensed, back forming a stiff line. "The only protecting I’ve needed is from people like you."
"You will protect this city?" Cormac asked drily. "A pity you haven’t gotten around to it yet, or I’d have a lot less demon guts in my washing."
"You would cast us all as villains, but it is not so!" Orsino roared, stepping around Meredith to stand by the newcomers, and Anders rested an elbow on his shoulder, absently.
"I know, and it breaks my heart to do it, but we must be vigilant." Meredith’s voice was sickly sweet in a way that made the hair on the back of Fenris’s neck stand up, and then, suddenly, the sweetness was gone. "If you cannot tell me another way, then do not brand me a tyrant!"
"Have you … I don’t know, listened to Cullen at all, lately?" Anders asked, a curious eye on Meredith.
"This is getting nowhere," Orsino sighed, ducking out from under Anders’s arm. "Grand Cleric Elthina will put a stop to this."
"You will not bring Her Grace into this!" Meredith hissed, drawing her sword. "I will not permit you to use the Chantry to cover for your own incompetence any longer!"
Orsino rolled his eyes as he turned away, meaning to head up to the Chantry. He got two steps before the chorus of ‘No!’ from the three men lunging past him, and then there was a sword. Funny, he didn’t remember these robes having a sword, when he’d put them on. He slid off the blade into the arms of the Grey Warden beside him.
"No, no." The word was as much a plea as a denial as Anders pushed healing into the First Enchanter. But the magic slipped and slid over Orsino’s body without effect, a body that was limp and lifeless in Anders’s arms. Slowly, he lowered Orsino to the ground, his every shift loud in the stunned silence.
Then Anders looked up at Meredith, at her grim expression, devoid of apology, and his eyes lit blue. "Do you not also await word from the Grand Cleric?" he said, rising to his full height. "She cannot help you now." He beat his staff against the ground, raising dust and dirt from between stones.
Meredith angled her sword between them, lighting her face with a red glow. "Explain yourself, mage."
Anders didn’t back down or so much as flinch. "I will not stand by and watch you treat all mages like criminals," he said. Another thunk. "And while you murder innocents and those who would lead us. The Circle has failed us!" His voice rose to include the other mages gathered as his skin splintered with Fade light. "The time has come to act! There can be no half-measures."
His tone sent a chill down Artemis’s spine. "Anders, what did you do?" he asked, voice barely above a whisper.
"The time has come for us to be free of this corruption of the Maker’s word — this foolishness that was meant to save us from exactly what is happening right now." Cormac put one arm around Anders and the other around his brother. "This city is full of demons, and we all suffer, and yet you stand by and slaughter the people who are probably best equipped to solve that problem. You’re not in this to protect the city. We are."
"The Gazette—" Fenris’s eyes widened as he leaned back to look at Cormac.
"Nah, that wasn’t me. Probably Gytha, honestly. Varric, maybe." Cormac shrugged. "But, we’re bringing it down. We’re bringing down the corrupt system that’s been oppressing our people for nearly a thousand years. We’re done."
"There will be no turning back." Anders squeezed Cormac’s hand.
"Better not be," Cormac muttered.
Anders took a deep breath, closing his eyes. For a moment, everything was still, and then the top blew off the Chantry — a fountain of particoloured flame and dust, like fireworks above some grand Orlesian celebration, if accompanied by chunks of stone that rained down on Hightown. As the flashes of red, green, and blue continued, the Chantry seemed to suck inward, collapsing into itself in a rain of smoking chips of stone.
"Anders," Cormac sighed, a warm smile on his face, as he rested his head against Anders’s arm, "it’s beautiful. Marry me."
"Fuck the Chantry," Anders replied, leaning down to plant a quick kiss on Cormac’s lips. "Mage rights before marriage."
Behind them, Meredith looked on in horror, unable to even find words for what she was watching.