[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 381
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Carver Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Varric ♂, Isabela ♀, Bethany Hawke ♀, Sebastian ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂, Meredith Stannard ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V1 D0)
Warnings: The fine art of blowing shit up, canon-typical violence
Notes: Kirkwall watches the Chantry come down. Meredith’s wrath will not be subdued.
Carver couldn’t say which came first, the ground trembling or the flash of light. First he thought of thunder and lightning, and then he feared that Meredith was tearing the building down. The trembling stopped, and Carver went to the nearest window and stuck his head out to see not lightning or Meredith’s wrath but an ugly grey sky and the beam that split it like an open wound.
Behind him, mages whispered. "What is that?"
"Where is that?"
Carver swallowed hard enough to make a sound. "That’s the Chantry," he said, recognising the spires as they were being disintegrated. "That’s the… Cullen!"
When Carver found him, Cullen was already staring out another window, the blast lighting his face with a washed-out red light. A stiff wind could have knocked him over.
The rumble under the tavern was enough to raise Varric’s eyebrows. "That’s not… I thought we didn’t have dragons under the city…" He shot a look at Isabela and slipped his cards under his tankard as he got up and went to the door. In the streets, there was panic. In the sky, there was colour — blazing colour and a dizzying beam of light that seemed to reach the heavens.
"Izzy? We gotta go! Anton said he’d be at the Gallows, right?" Varric was halfway out the door, when he turned around and slapped a few more sovereigns into Corff’s hand. "For them. They’re going to need drinks, and they’re going to need protection. Don’t let in anything that looks like it came out of the Gallows — mage or templar."
"Still not taking sides?" Isabela asked, resting an arm on Varric’s shoulder as they stepped out into Lowtown. The sky struck her then. "Oh. Oh, Varric, we gotta go."
"Free beer!" Varric yelled, as he ran through the streets, toward the docks. "Free beer at the Hanged Man! Grab everyone you know! Free beer at the Hanged Man!" They’d move for that, he thought. Free beer meant more in Lowtown than life-threatening danger, which said a lot about the place, really.
Across Lowtown, Bethany and Sebastian gaped up at the same sky, the same explosive colour. Buildings blocked much of their view from this angle, and Sebastian trotted ahead, trying to find a better vantage point. Whatever that was, it was near the Chantry, and — and that was the Chantry, he realised with dawning horror as the building floated off the ground, stone by stone.
"No!" he cried, falling to his knees. "Maker, no!"
Bethany’s hand squeezed his shoulder just as the final blast washed over them like a harsh wind, rocking them back.
"Elthina," he whimpered as Bethany shushed him gently. "She was Your most faithful, Your most beloved!"
"Maybe she made it out," she said without believing it. That explosion… she had never seen anything like it. "I’ll help you look for her later, Pumpkin. But for now we have to get to the Gallows."
"So, we have a deal, then, yes? You look after the colony for a few days, while I figure out how to move them. That’s—" Anton stopped talking as the ground above and below him began to shake. Everyone in the vault looked up.
"I thought you said there weren’t any dragons," the Coterie lieutenant beside him said.
"There aren’t." Anton ran to the stairs, just in time to see the cloud of dust start to pour out of the tunnels under the Chantry. "Get everyone below! Everyone! There’s dust everywhere. Something happened under the Chantry!"
Evacuate the Chantry, his brother had told Bethany. Evacuate the Chantry. Cormac had known this was coming — and he knew where Cormac was. He untied his sash and wrapped it around his face, as he closed the trapdoor behind him and ran for the tunnel that led back to the Gallows.
When Meredith finally found words — "Maker, have mercy" — Fenris agreed with the breathless shock in them. "Mage," he said, turning his face towards Anders before his stare followed. "What are you doing?" Or mages, he realised, noting Cormac. He wondered for a moment about his mage, but — no. Artemis looked just as shocked as he did.
"I’ve removed the chance of compromise," Anders said, taking strength from Cormac’s arm around him. "Because there is no compromise. It starts here." It was still Anders’s voice, even as his eyes flickered blue. "First Kirkwall and the mages. Then Minrathous and the slaves. Will you stand with me?" His lip curled up into something almost like a smile. "I — we — could use a Shartan."
"How long have you been planning this?" Artemis asked Cormac in a whisper. He wasn’t sure if he meant the words to come out so accusatory.
But Meredith interrupted them. "The grand cleric has been slain by magic," she said, voice rising to address her templars, "the chantry destroyed." The shock on her face had given way to steely determination, and she held her sword aloft. "As Knight-Commander of Kirkwall, I hereby invoke the Right of Annulment. Every mage in the Circle is to be executed — immediately!"
"The Circle didn’t do this," Cormac pointed out, "as sure as I am that they will one day thank us. You will stay away from them. You will deal with me." Not us. He wouldn’t presume to include even Anders in this. Anders, obviously, needed to survive. Anders needed to live long enough to lead, and Cormac had little doubt Justice could make that happen. "This is for my father. This is for my family. This is for everyone who didn’t get even the sliver of opportunity we had, to become real people and solid members of the community, like any others."
Meredith turned to Fenris. "I demand you stand with us! Even you must see that this outrage cannot be tolerated!"
"I…" Fenris turned to the mages to see Artie ducking out from under his brother’s arm.
"You’re saying blowing up a building is for us?" Artemis asked. His hands moved in front of him as though he wanted to grab Cormac and shake him, but they just ended up buried in his own hair instead. "Cormac, how many people were in there? How could you—?" Artie bit off the rest. How could Cormac not tell him?
"Only one person," said Bethany.
Bethany… Artemis turned to see his sister approaching, leading a white-faced Sebastian by the hand. "What?"
"The grand cleric," she said. "And we tried to get her out. There was no one else in the Chantry."
Artie looked back and forth between his brother and his sister. He pointed at Bethany and glared at Cormac. "You involved her in this?" he asked, even as something eased in his chest at her words. Of course. They’d been after the building, the symbol. Of course Cormac would want to save whomever they could.
"I trust her effectiveness, and I needed you here, with me." Cormac smiled sheepishly at his brother. "I’ll admit I expected we’d lose Elthina, though. She’s been trying to martyr herself for years." He glanced over his shoulder at Bethany. "How bad is it, up there?"
"The Qunari did worse," Bethany replied, shaking her head. "You know, you could have told me."
"I know. Probably should’ve, but it … We didn’t really mean to do that, today. The opportunity — the necessity — just presented itself. After all, who’s going to replace the Knight-Commander?"
"And I didn’t want to miss that!" Bethany grinned.
"I have heard of the conditions in which these people are kept, and I can honestly say that most of my time in Tevinter was in better conditions, to the best of my recollection," Fenris replied, at last. "And yet, they did not rise up against you, which is more than I can say for my own patience. These men came to save them from you, and you won’t even deal with the problem at the source — no, you wish to use this as a reason to massacre your prisoners, your slaves, in the hopes of being given more obedient ones, next time. You are no better than the magisters you claim to hate and fear."
Anders smiled proudly, chin tilting upward.
"You and I are going to have a long talk about this, Anders," Fenris growled, turning to jab a finger at the mage. "What are you doing, starting a war, old man? War is for the young! War is for people with nothing to lose!"
"I’ve already lost it all so many times, at least I should get something satisfying out of it, this time," Anders laughed, shaking his head. "And what am I doing? I’m upending the status quo. What does it look like I’m doing?"
"It looks like you’re wearing a very, very nice new coat!" Isabela called out, sprinting down the stairs with Varric balanced on her shoulders. "Very posh, very heroic. Take a note, Shorty, that’s a book cover waiting to happen!"
Sebastian finally absorbed what was happening. "Wait, wait. Why are we debating the Right of Annulment when the monsters who did this are right here? I swear to you, I will kill them."
"Calm down, pumpkin. That’s my brother you’re talking about," Bethany reminded him.
Sebastian looked terribly torn at that but no less livid.
"Which brother are we talking about?" called out a new voice from behind Meredith, Anton’s voice. When the Knight-Commander turned to look at him, Anton would have liked to say he made a dashing, heroic figure with his templar entourage at his sides, but his hair and armour were still covered in a layer of dust. "You know it’s rude to gossip about your brothers, Bethy. Unless that brother’s Carver."
"Hey!" Carver swatted his arm, and a puff of dust came up, making him cough.
"Ah, good," said Meredith. "Captain. Elthina is dead at the hands of mages, and I have invoked the Right. You know what to do."
"Mages?" Anton interrupted, the cocky grin frozen on his face. All eyes pointed to Anders and Cormac. "Ah, shit."
"Champion, your brother has destroyed the Chantry and murdered the grand cleric," Meredith told him. "I believe it would be wiser to stand with your husband in this."
Anton nodded, brow knit as though he were deep in consideration. "I don’t think that will be a problem," he said.
"There are no mages left living inside the tower," Cullen reported, crossing his arms. Elthina, he’d really almost expected. Elthina might see him as a liability, instead of an asset, and the Maker only knew speaking to her about the problem had gotten no one anywhere.
"So soon? Are you sure?" Meredith blinked in surprise.
"There is no magic left in the Gallows," Carver confirmed. "Well, aside from out here in the courtyard, of course."
Cullen caught sight of Orsino’s body, a flicker of regret in the corners of his eyes. If they could’ve finished faster… But, he’d given his life to help the rest of the mages escape this. "Put down the sword, Commander. I have some very bad news about it, but I need you to put it down, first."
"Why should I set down my sword?" Meredith asked, looking suspicious. "There are apostates yet to be executed!"
"Because it’s making you sick, Commander. I’ll give you a different—"
But, Meredith didn’t wait for Cullen to finish that sentence. "Kill them all! I will rouse the rest of the Order!"