[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 384
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Carver Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Varric ♂, Isabela ♀, Aveline ♀, Anton Hawke ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂, Ella ♀, Keran ♂, Ser Marlein ♀, Merrill ♀, Samson ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence
Notes: A brief reprieve from swording. The Tranquil are found, along with records of Meredith’s madness.
When the fighting, finally, was over, Justice found himself surrounded by the bodies of fallen templars, a scene that was chillingly familiar. He wondered if this was a scene he’d see again and how often before the mages were truly free.
"Everyone in one piece?" Cullen called out, one hand still on Thrask’s shoulder and squeezing, perhaps, more tightly than necessary. Beside him, Thrask was pale and dazed but alive.
"More or less," said Aveline, rolling her shoulder. "Do we need to have a roll call? We’ll start with the Hawkes."
"There’s blood on my hands," Artemis said blankly.
Next to him, Marlein clapped him on the shoulder. "I know it seems that way," she told him earnestly, "but you did what you had to. The Maker will forgive you."
Artemis blinked at her. "I… no, I mean literally. There’s blood on my hands, and it’s bothersome. But, yes, I’m fine. And I’ve counted my siblings, so they’re fine."
"Just peachy," Carver mumbled, still favouring one leg. Mostly, Anton suspected, so that Merrill could fuss over it.
Cormac staggered upright, trying to ignore the fact that all the blood seemed to have rushed to his head while he was leaned over Thrask. Justice was the most important thing. Justice couldn’t be left to wander by himself. Not here. "Hey, blue and gorgeous, you want to step down? We need a healer!"
"THERE IS NO TIME FOR—"
"Nope. Think. You’ll regret that later, and you know it, because it is unjust." Cormac smiled serenely and fluttered his eyelashes at Justice. "Heal them, and we’ll move on."
Swirls of blue and green light cropped up, around the room, and a general sense of well-being settled over a good many people who had, moments before, been gritting their teeth not to complain of their wounds.
Bethany stood over a large pile of unconscious templars. "Two of you, start moving these guys down to the dungeon. I don’t want to kill them, and we have to put them somewhere, because if I move, they’re going to wake up."
"Take the ones who’ve lost the most blood," Carver said, after a moment’s thought. "And take more than two. Anyone who was down, before Glowy the Mage-Lamp over here started slinging around healing spells, go help my sister."
"He’s right," Cullen said, looking around. "They’ll turn you into meat, in the corridors."
"Well, I do like meat," Isabela joked, "but I prefer my man-meat with a pulse."
"You know I’m going to write that down, right? An epic tale of the fall of the Gallows, and you’re going to be right in the middle, talking about throbbing templar sausage." Varric gave Bianca an affectionate pat and scrounged a few bolts that had survived the platemail.
"It’s that hint of truth that really makes your stories, Varric." Isabela grinned.
Ruvena shook her head. "I’m sorry not more of them sided with you, Captain — with us. Idiots, the lots of them. Everyone knows Meredith’s lost her mind. She just wears that cowl to keep us from noticing how scrambled her head is."
"I’m just glad we got as many as we did," Cullen told her. He looked at the fallen templars and thought of the mages who’d escaped. Even without magebane, one smite would have left them helpless. "This could have been a blood bath."
"Ruvena, we heard shouting when we came in," Keran said, fiddling with his sword’s pommel nervously. "Did you see any mages here? Or Tranquil?"
She was nodding before he’d finished asking. "Yes, down that way," she said, pointing to the stairs and the doorway on the right. They’ve barricaded themselves in a room. Ser Penis was trying to force the door down when the Captain called."
"Ella!" Keran shouted, bolting for the stairs, sword still in his hand.
"As the man says, if not in so many words, let’s go get them out of here." Samson spit phlegm as he followed Keran up.
Cullen waved for the rest of the room to follow. The stairs and the hall at the top weren’t wide, and they’d have gotten mangled in this passage, with all its little side-rooms, if they hadn’t drawn the body of the fight out into the entry. Still, every door had to be opened, every room checked. A few lead to small ambushes, quickly dispatched, others to small numbers of corpses — those who hadn’t made it out, for whatever reason, and Cullen had some extremely unpleasant thoughts about those reasons, if this was where he was finding the bodies. But, most of the rooms were empty. Finally, a door wouldn’t open, and Keran waved them all past.
"Ella? It’s me and Cullen and some people. We’ve got everyone else out." Keran knocked at the door.
"And if you’re worried about Ser Penis, he hasn’t got one any more," Marlein called, as she dragged a few slow-moving parties past.
For a long moment, Keran didn’t hear anything. No movement, no voices, and his thigh jumped restlessly as he waited for something, anything, to tell him that Ella was alive. And then he heard the scrape of heavy furniture, probably a desk or a bookcase, and he stilled, holding his breath. The moment the door opened, Ella surged out of the room, throwing her arms around him.
"Oh thank the Maker," Keran breathed, holding her tight, tight enough for her toes to leave the floor.
"I was so worried," she said against his armour, voice and shoulders trembling. "I was scared they’d found you out, and then they were chasing and us, and… Keran, I was so scared."
Keran hushed her gently and held her tighter still as she sobbed.
Varric nudged Isabela with his elbow. "Forbidden romance, nearly ends in tragedy but they manage to fight their way through to each other. What do you think? Bestseller?"
Isabela tilted her head and considered. "You should put his legs on the cover."
Anders seemed to be frozen in place, face much paler than usual, as he watched. He knew — he knew — she wasn’t really Tranquil. He’d been part of that stunt. But, seeing her here, like this, with the old brand still on her and so much life left in her eyes, all he could think of was that moment when Karl had finally seen him, known him. He forgot how to breathe, and the next thing he knew was Cormac’s warm hand, wiping at damp patches on his cheeks. He just felt so cold. But, they weren’t done yet. Somewhere in here, Meredith was still wandering around with that sword.
Still, he took the time to bury his face against Cormac’s shoulder, to let the warmth wash over him, even if it didn’t sink in.
This was completely fucked up, Samson decided, all at once. He’d been deciding it for years, really, but in the moment, he was more sure of it than ever. He glanced at Cullen. "Is she…?"
"No." Cullen shook his head. "She’s something else entirely. Brave, at the least."
Samson nodded speculatively. "Hey, Maddox! Maddox, my man, you here? The Captain brought me back!"
He hadn’t seen the man since it happened. They’d been taken away, separately, both still mostly entire, and here they were, again, but neither one quite right.
"Ser." A dark-haired man shuffled out of the group.
"Not quite yet," Samson admitted. He gestured at the sunburst scar on the man’s face. "I heard. I’m sorry."
"I brought this on myself and on you," Maddox said, with no change in his expression. "But, we cannot change what has already happened."
"No, I suppose not," Samson said, feeling regret enough for them both.
Carver nudged the door open the rest of the way and waved the occupants out into the hall.
"I must return to my duties," said one Tranquil, her pale blue eyes glassy and vacant as they swept over the gathered templars. "The Knight-Commander has requested my services."
"The Knight-Commander has changed her mind," Carver said, recognising her as Meredith’s assistant. It occurred to him that he didn’t know her name and that this was something he should be ashamed of.
The Tranquil looked at him, staring just long enough to make him uncomfortable, before sweeping her gaze to Cullen.
"Thank you, Elsa, but he is correct," Cullen said, speaking in what Anton called his ‘Captain voice’, the one that drew attention and demanded obedience. "I have new orders for you. I would like you, all of you, to follow Ser Keran outside and to follow his instructions."
Anders kept his face turned mostly away, as he tossed a healing potion to Keran. "Tell Sebastian he’s still an asshole."
"Take these folks outside and tell Brother Sebastian he’s an asshole." Keran nodded. "I can do that."
As the Tranquil headed down the hall, in Keran’s wake, Anton called after them, "And help my sister if she needs it! That was a lot of dead weight in the hall!"
"Don’t let the commander into this room," Ella told Cullen. "Everything I did for you is filed in here. And… good luck, Ser Cullen. May the Maker watch over you." She followed behind the Tranquil.
"Speaking of Meredith…" Cullen looked down the hall the other way. "She’s probably gone to her office. I think I know what she’s after, if it isn’t me. This hall goes all the way around, so… let’s go get this over with."
The smell of smoke caught up with them, before they found the office, and they followed it back to its source. Open cabinets and drawers had been dumped into the middle of the floor, and the enormous pile of paper had been lit aflame.
"I was right," Cullen sighed. "But, she’s done here. You see this? Do you all see this for what it is? She’s taken all the records of what she’s done and burned them. And more than that, I’m fairly certain she’s going to try to blame the fire on mages. Since I’m pretty sure every mage currently in this tower is standing here with me, I’m willing to dispute that claim. But, only if we can find her."
"Where would she—?" Varric started to ask, when a few shouts drifted through the open window.
"That’s my sister!" Cormac whirled, looking at the assortment of doors around him. "Where are the stairs? Where are the nearest stairs? That’s my sister down there with the lunatic Knight-Commander."