[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 382
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Carver Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Varric ♂, Isabela ♀, Bethany Hawke ♀, Sebastian ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂, Meredith Stannard ♀, Keran ♂, Ser Marlein ♀, Merrill ♀, Nathaniel Howe ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence
Notes: The battle begins. Sebastian’s outrage continues. Assistance arrives from an unexpected direction.
In an instant, there was no more magic in the courtyard than there was inside. Anders’s eyes lit blue, and the glow crawled out across his face, as he shouldered his staff and drew the sword at his side. Bethany tilted heavily into Sebastian’s arms, dizzy as the magic left her.
"Shit! Somebody fucking punch me and get out of the way!" Cormac roared, glaive suddenly in hand.
Fenris stepped in front of Artemis, sword already in hand, but it was Carver who got to Cormac first. Instead of glancing off a shield, Carver’s fist met Cormac’s cheek, and the courtyard in front of them filled with the swirl of a storm.
"Sorry, not enough residual to do it right," Cormac muttered, eyeing the absurd number of plated figures, before them. And some of those templars were on their side, but which ones? "Cullen! Cullen! Skirts to the knee! Skirts to the knee, so I can tell who’s ours!"
"Shit," Cullen hissed, a blow aimed for his face glancing off his sword instead. He’d trained some of these men, lived and bled beside them, and in that moment he was grateful for the helmets that covered their faces. "A bit busy, Cormac!" But the hand not holding his sword pulled up his skirts and tucked them into the waistband. "Keran, Carver, Marlein! You heard him!"
Izzy tucked in Keran’s skirts for him before he even realised she was there. "Nice legs," she said with a wink before spinning away, the momentum slicing her knife across another templar’s throat.
"Thank… you?" He jumped back in time to avoid a blow to those legs.
"Better legs," Isabela told Marlein as she passed, almost disappointed that she had fixed those skirts herself.
By then, Bethany had steadied, still pale as she leaned on her spear, and Sebastian had drawn his bow, eyes lit with anger as he shot down the templars without impunity. He wanted to put an arrow through Anders’s skull, and for a moment he almost did, arrow trained on the back of the mage’s head. But not. Not yet. Not like this.
From the sound, the fight had broken out inside the Gallows, as well, as Meredith realised that not all the templars were willing to accept her leadership any longer. The doors hung open, and the sound of metal on metal rang out into the courtyard.
This, Cormac realised, was what he was meant to do, from the moment his magic manifested. This was the battle his father had trained him to fight, and it wasn’t just for his own family, but for every mage in Kirkwall. He’d started the war that would bring liberty or death to every mage in Thedas, and he could only hope that for most of them, it was liberty.
For the most part, his glaive rang off the armour of templar after templar, but even if he couldn’t puncture it, those dents had to have broken bone. The few fools who lacked helmets lost their heads quickly, and elsewhere in the furious clash of blades and tin buckets, Justice brought his sparking blade to bear with truly inhuman force behind it, and Cormac could understand terror as an appropriate reaction to that, were it not on his side.
Armour was no obstacle to Fenris, and even as he tore from one templar to the next, he stayed close to the mages, eviscerating any ill-fated fool who got too close. The battle was desperate, bloody, and over as suddenly as it began.
Cullen stood over the fallen, his sword as red as Meredith’s now, and counted the living. "So it has come to this," he murmured. He spotted his husband, who fussed with a torn sleeve but was otherwise untouched, and a relieved breath escaped him. "That was not what I meant by a distraction," he told the glowing creature who had been Anders. Justice. Right. The glowing creature had a name.
"THIS IS A WAR THAT NEEDS TO BE FOUGHT," Justice boomed. He was restless, pacing like a caged tiger while his companions collected themselves. "YOU KNOW THAT AS WELL AS I, KNIGHT-CAPTAIN. ANDERS TOLD YOU WE WOULD MAKE YOU COMMANDER."
Cullen tried not to be ill at that. War, Justice said. Not a battle. War. This was something greater than him, greater than Kirkwall, and he wasn’t sure he was prepared to have that on his shoulders.
The clank of armour approaching drew their attention, and Cullen already had his sword raised before he realised it was one suit of armour, belonging to the Guard Captain.
"Anton!" Aveline barked out, arms out wide. "What the fuck did you do?"
For a moment, Anton debated the wisdom of taking credit for this, but that seemed unwise. He jabbed a finger at Justice. "Don’t look at me! Look at him!"
"You…" Aveline’s eyes narrowed. "What is the purpose of this? What is the purpose and how many innocent people did you kill doing it?"
"NONE," Justice replied, unblinking.
"He means we evacuated the Chantry," Cormac filled in, wiping blood off his face with the bottom of his sleeve. "And this…"
"Meredith’s vision of the Order cannot be allowed to stand. Not in Kirkwall, nor anywhere else in Thedas. This is not an answer to the problem of magisters," Fenris filled in. "And when I told her as much, she ordered us executed, along with every mage in the Gallows. Of course, she meant to do that last, anyway."
"She meant to do that last for weeks," Cullen pointed out. "I asked Anton for a distraction, so I could remove the mages from the tower, until Meredith could be relieved of her position. She’s always been more strict in her interpretation of the law than I’ve come to see as wise, but since she’s turned to violating the Chantry’s edicts, I can’t support her any longer. I haven’t supported her for some time. I’ve called for her removal, but…" He gestured around himself. "Who hears one Knight-Captain’s complaints?"
"You asked Anton for a distraction. I’m not hearing the part where Anders just blew the Chantry into a small pile of teetering rubble," Aveline remained unamused, studying the men before her. "And why in Andraste’s name are you flashing your legs at everyone, Cullen?"
Cullen blushed to his hairline, and Anton’s wolf-whistle did not help matters. "It’s… I. Uh." He cleared his throat and fought the urge to cover his legs. There would be more fighting of templars — other templars — he imagined, and if this kept him from being a target, he was fine with it. Sort of fine. Mostly fine. "So I don’t end up at the business end of a friendly spell by accident," he said. "As for the Chantry…" He darted a look at Anders. "That, I can assure you, I had no part in."
Sebastian’s grip was tight on his bow. "He murdered the grand cleric," he said. He, not they. Sebastian wouldn’t put Bethany between him and her brother, but Anders was another matter. "Just to make a statement. And he, of all people, should understand why I demand justice!" He took a step towards Anders, when Bethany pretended to be faint again, and he paused to give her his arm and his attention.
"What’s done is done," Artemis said, rubbing his forehead. "No one can do anything for the Chantry or Elthina now, but there’s still Meredith and the Circle to deal with. Perhaps we should focus on that before stabbing each other? Which I do not condone, by the way."
"I will not fight for his cause!" Sebastian roared, but Bethany shushed him.
"Then do not fight at all," Fenris shot back. "If this fight does you no credit, the other side of it would do you even less."
"Why don’t we go up the steps to—" Bethany started, as Merrill stumbled down the steps, staff in hand.
"What’s happened? Carver? Is Carver with you?"
Carver stepped around the small crowd he’d gotten caught in, trying to wipe the blood off his armour with one hand. "It’s not mine. Mostly. I’m all right, Merrill. Did the alienage make it?"
Merrill smiled and threw her arms around Carver, with no mind to the blood that soaked into her clothes and hair. "Of course, vhenan. Sandal does good work. We’re all right. But, I heard it, and I remembered the news — that the Commander might take to the streets — and I knew you wouldn’t go with her, and I just wanted to know you didn’t die."
"We’ve really tried to keep the dying to a minimum. On all sides," Cormac said, with a somewhat regretful glance at the corpses around them. "Unfortunately, some people didn’t get the memo."
"Is that Keran?" Merrill asked, blinking at the armoured figure next to Cullen. "Oh, good. I was hoping everyone’s favourite buckethead shem would make it!"
"Thank… you?" Keran said as Carver pouted.
"How come he’s your favourite?" Carver whined, his arms tightening around her, not out of jealousy but out of relief that she was there.
"His legs are nicer," Isabela suggested. She winked at Keran and grinned at Carver, who looked twice as offended.
"Well," said Anton cheerfully, "this has been a wonderful clusterfuck of a day so far. I’d ask if it was Tuesday, but I see no demons. At least not yet." He cleaned off his daggers with a bloody rag, leaning his hip against a wall. "But I suppose it’s our job to clean up Meredith’s mess. Is there anyone here who doesn’t want any part of this? Well. I imagine few of us actually want a part in this, but you understand. This affair is already a mess, and it’s only going to get messier."
"Don’t remind me," Artie muttered.
"For the record," muttered Varric, "I am really sick of templars and mages."
"This is a battle for me to fight. I didn’t get up this morning expecting to fight it today, but I got up this morning expecting to fight it eventually, just like I do every morning. I tried to do this bloodlessly, and I turned some heads, but not enough, not fast enough, and it falls to me to remove a few heads, to make room for new ideas," Anders pronounced, the blue glow dimmer, but not gone. "Justice and I… insofar as there even are two of us, any more— Justice and I are prepared for this. If you’re not ready to join us — if you have any doubts about what we’re about to do — then stand down. There are other people who need your help. There are people who have needed your help since that broken shell of the Maker’s teaching first started to fail them. I have severed a great weight from this place, and now the tree recoils. At the very least, make new and different mistakes. Maker knows, I will. But, now? Don’t just stand there, help someone!"
Sebastian draped Bethany across her nearest brother, before he drew an arrow and levelled his bow. "Where was your sentiment when you murdered the Grand Cleric?" Sebastian demanded. "I will not let this abomination walk free! He dies now, or I will return to Starkhaven and come back with such an army that there will be nothing left of Kirkwall for these maleficarum to rule. I will crush—" The sentence cut off in a sharp gasp, and the shot went wild, as the bow dropped from Sebastian’s hand, an arrow clean through his shoulder.
"Sit down and stop your posturing, Vael." A figure swaggered up a dimly lit alley, toward the group assembled before the Gallows. "Why is it always you, Anders?" the voice asked, as a familiar Warden stepped out of the alley and crossed to where Sebastian knelt, still trying to decide what to do with the arrow jutting from his shoulder.
"Howe?" Anders asked, wrong-footed for the barest moment before he recovered himself. "Howe can this be? What are you still doing here?"
"Cleaning up your messes as usual," Nathaniel said, pinning Sebastian to the ground with his boot, "which are, apparently, only getting bigger in my absence."
Fenris shifted uncomfortably at the sight of Nathaniel and the mention of messes.
Artemis caught that look around Bethany’s head. "Do we know him?" he asked in a loud whisper, one arm still supporting his sister.
"I don’t want to talk about it," Fenris grumbled.
On the ground, Sebastian made distressed sounds of pain through his teeth, his working hand fluttering about the arrow in his shoulder. "Who… in the Maker’s name?" he choked.
"Who is it always, Your Royal Whininess? I’ll give you a hint — we all thought I’d be the Arl of Amaranthine, one day." Nathaniel gazed down, mercilessly amused.
"Howe, not who, Sebastian," Anders filled in. "You’re asking the wrong questions."
"I’m going to punch you in the face, later, just so we’re clear." Nathaniel jabbed a finger at Anders, before he returned his attention to Sebastian. "Didn’t you ever learn to shoot first and talk later? I kept trying to teach you that, and this, right here, is exactly why. I’m still standing, and you have an arrow sticking out of your shoulder."
"You should probably let me get that out, before you do any real damage," Bethany cut in, extracting herself from Artemis.
"Oh, I’m sure the healer, over there, isn’t going to let this turn into anything serious." Nathaniel smiled and took Bethany’s hand, shifting his foot for Sebastian’s maximum discomfort, as he leaned down to touch his lips to her fingers. "Lady Hawke, I presume."
"Lady Amell," Bethany corrected. "You’re a handsome one, aren’t you? You look just like… someone famous and Fereldan. It’ll come to me."
"Don’t say it, Bethy!" Cormac called out. "I said it, and I have regrets!"
"I do not!" Nathaniel insisted, as Bethany snapped the arrow in half, easing it out of Sebastian’s shoulder.
"Ah, not to break up this party, but has anyone seen Ella?" Keran asked, looking around. "Anton? Did she go with you?"
"No, she wanted to stay behind and get the Tranquil…" Anton turned an eye toward the door, a sickly look on his face.
"What?" Cullen asked, expression turning sharp as he stared back at the Tower. The Tower Meredith had disappeared into, to gather her templars. "Shit."
Keran turned a ghastly shade of white. He started towards the Tower and then stopped, hand clenching and unclenching around the hilt of his sword. "Captain," he said. "I’m sorry. I have to—"
"Of course you do," Cullen agreed. "And so do I. Come on."
"We," Anders said, following them up the steps. Around him, their friends gathered up their weapons and followed. "Nate, could you keep sitting on that for me? If I end up with an arrow stuck through me, I’d rather it be yours."
"You’re giving me good incentive to do just that," Nathaniel warned.
One hand clutching his shoulder, Sebastian tried feebly to sit up, with the boot still on his chest. "Howe—"
"Shut up, Vael."